The fans' goodwill from the Wisconsin upset may be on the verge of running out.
The day started out poorly, as news broke that Junior Etou was disciplined and stayed home because of a failure to meet team expectations.
It only got worse from there.
Rutgers started the game with a dominant Kadeem Jack who made his first 6 shots from the field--and opening up a 6-0 lead. But then Penn State decided it wanted to make three pointers. Lots of them. D. J. Newbill was completely unstoppable early, even making covered three pointers from nearly halfcourt. That kind of start just gave the rest of the Nittany Lions confidence.
Meanwhile, Rutgers couldn't hold on to the ball and turned it over 8 times in the first half alone. Penn State got run-outs and by the first TV timeout of the second half had opened up a 21 point lead (and at one point growing to 22).
It seems that Rutgers saved it's best basketball for a four game stretch in which they only went 1-3. The Wisconsin game was always going the high point of the season, but it can't be the only moment fans and recruits remember. Myles Mack is clearly tired, at times not even bothering to fight through screens and leading to a lot of open shot, and that kind of exhausted-ness has had the same impact on Rutgers as Newbill's shooting had on Penn State.
And to make matters worse, with 6:12 remain in the game, Mike Williams made a jump shot, but landed on Newbill's foot and went down in a heap. He reached for his ankle, and needed help getting off the court.
The bright spot? D. J. Foreman, who got a lot of Etou's minutes, certainly showed a lot of hustle--even when down 25.
This sort of thing has happened to Rutgers for years. Teams always "get healthy" against the Scarlet Knights, and that's on Rutgers--not Eddie Jordan. This program has been allowed to linger on the hope some coach catches lightning in a bottle, instead of investing in it and building it the right way. Greg Schiano didn't build football on stilts, but for years, Rutgers' administration has been trying to do that with basketball.
Want efforts like this to go away? Build basketball correctly.
What's on Eddie? Effort. Rutgers can't sleepwalk through games like they did today, only to lose by 30. Fans and recruits have to see more games like the last four rather than this type of performance. In the midst of the season, this is a bad sign. The team needs to recalibrate, and Eddie needs to find the hustle he found 2 weeks ago.
But, big picture? Eddie doesn't have it easy. He has to wait for the remainder of the Mike Rice scandal to clear out of everyone's minds, and then start rebuilding. It's almost a demolition--and then a new foundation. Mack and Jack have represented Rutgers well, and deserved the Wisconsin win. They will be remembered forever in Rutgers lore. But, Eddie's crying after the Badgers game was so telling--he needed this for the seniors who stayed, but also the rebuilding started then.
And so Rutgers, who was so high on life after beating the #4 team in the country, ended a game barely bothering to stop a driver. The heart this team had been displaying was not there today.
Rutgers basketball has so much potential under Eddie Jordan, but when players and administration don't buy in, this is what you're left with. Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack can only do so much.
And Rutgers needs another Wisconsin effort ASAP--otherwise, the bad taste in fans' mouth now will linger the rest of the summer. No matter when the rebuilding actually starts.