In seasons past, painted on the wall and looming over the court, was a red wall with white letters on it. Painted on that wall were the words: HOME OF RUTGERS BASKETBALL. This season that wall is now just painted scarlet The letters have been painted over, and the wall is empty.
The RAC is a shell of what it once was.
No longer do teams walk in fearing the crowd, a barrage of threes, and an intense team--one that could at least win at home. Instead, they find a team that does not play a 40 minute game. They find a team that has so many lapses on defense, a good 3 point shooting team can get open shots whenever they wanted.
Rutgers came out of the gate on fire today. Kadeem Jack and Junior Etou couldn't miss from 3 point land, and Jack had 16 points in the first half. However, those three point shots were the first sign of trouble. No one on the team was attacking the paint for easy baskets, and you knew the big men's deep shots weren't going to keep falling.
Meanwhile, St. Francis was getting open threes they way every team that plays Rutgers gets open threes. They had a guard drive inside, and as Rutgers collapsed the defense, the opponent kicked it out. And it worked against Rutgers, every single time.
Rutgers lead 39-34 at the break, but had already let a 16 point lead get whittled down. And then the Scarlet Knights came out sleeping in the second half. According to Jerry Carino, the Red Flash went on a 40-11 run to open up and 11 point lead.
Bishop Daniels, however, was the first Rutgers player to wake up and tried to put the team on his back. He scored 12 points, all in the second half, and helped Rutgers tie the game in the final minute. The tie, however, was short lived, as St. Francis--now extremely confident--let time run off the clock and then Ollie Jackson hit a backbreaker 3 to go up 66-63 with 16 seconds left.
The game came down to foul shots then, and St. Francis made theirs. Rutgers falls to 6-5 on the season, three of those losses at the RAC. A game like this isn't about neglect or practice facilities. It's about hustle, desire and heart. Rutgers was outrebounded again by a smaller team. They were, in Eddie Jordan's words, not as tough as St. Francis. They sleepwalked one too many times today. And the fans rained boos down upon them.
And so, it's beginning to look like another long season at the RAC. It's no long the home of the Scarlet Knights, that's been painted over.
Instead, the opponent is all too frequently making themselves at home.
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