In a season of disappointments, Eddie Jordan appeared to finally get fed up.
In the second half of a game with the Memphis Tigers, the Scarlet Knights were able to turn the battle into a gritty dogfight. It was a different Eddie Jordan through most of the game: intense and ornery on the sideline. He was riding the refs, yelling at players. It wasn't the cuddly Eddie.
And with 10:19 remaining the game, he sent his strongest message. Wally Judge was subbed out of the game for Craig Brown. It seems like a small moment, but they you realize that was the last substitution Eddie would make in the game. He played Myles Mack, Kadeem Jack, Malick Kone, Brown, and Junior Etou the rest of the way. And the players almost rewarded him, despite--with about 2 minutes left--exhaustion all over the court.
Kadeem Jack put the team on his back. He scored 22 points (18 in the second half) and 10 rebounds. Kone was an integral part, dropping in ten of his own. In my keys to the game, I said everyone had to play well. Unfortunately, Mack was pressing. He was off. Had he hit a few three pointers down the stretch, the outcome could have been different.
The team also put on one of their best defensive showings of the game.
But the story of the game was Jordan's gauntlet laying. Jerome Seagears only played 5 minutes, and was pulled after taking another jacked up 3. Wally Judge was never in foul trouble, but sat the last ten minutes--and didn't start due to a "minor team violation." J.J. Moore sat most of the second half as well.
In the postgame press conference, Jordan talked trust. He played the guys who ran the game plan and executed what he wanted. And they players who did kept the game close.
But, as has been the story all season, Rutgers couldn't get over the hump. They couldn't pull of a run, and ended up with a six point loss.
The sixth place AAC spot is still in reach, but Rutgers needs help--according to Jordan. Now the team has a week off, then travel to UCF--a very winnable game if they play how they did today.
And maybe the players Jordan trusts will.