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Rutgers Loses to Wake Forest 69-68

A lack of execution down the stretch doomed an otherwise solid effort.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers had the ball with 17 seconds left down 69-68. Corey Sanders settled for a 12 foot jumper that missed and was knocked out of bounds by Wake Forest.  Out of a timeout with 4 seconds left, Mike Williams caught the ball at the top of the arc and shot a three-pointer, missing and Wake grabbing the rebound.  There were fouled, missed both and D.J. Foreman was short on the 75 foot hail mary.  Game over and Rutgers lost another heartbreaker.  Both teams were in the double bonus down the stretch. This team must learn, settling for two jumpers down 1 point with the game winding down, is unacceptable.  Someone needed to drive to the basket and force a foul. Sanders inbounded the ball on the last play, something that needs to change as he is best suited to drive to the basket in that situation.

Rutgers shot 26% in the first half but came out hitting everything after the break, hitting 8 of their first 10 shots, starting the second half on a 21-10 run.  They were led by Sanders, who scored 9 points on 4-4 shooting during that stretch.  Rutgers went up 58-46 on a ridiculous fade away jumper by Bishop Daniels, most definitely a bad shot.  Unfortunately, Rutgers let up on both ends of the floor and Wake hit back to back three's, setting up their comeback.  Wake finished the game on a 23-10 run and went 14-17 from the line for the game, before missing two with 1 second to play.

Sanders led the team with 17 points on 6-15 shooting, including 2-5 from long distance.  He only had 1 assist though, which can't happen, as Rutgers let the lead slip away playing one on one basketball.  Sanders needs to prevent that from happening, ensuring they run the offense and get quality looks at the basket.  The last 10 minutes tonight were eerily similar to two weeks ago against St. John's.  The positive is Sanders can score in bunches and did not seem deterred by his turf toe.

Greg Lewis had his best game of the season by far, stepping up against Wake's deep frontcourt.  Lewis had 11 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks, playing with a desire and energy that has been missing all season.  Rutgers needs him to put forth an effort like tonight on a game by game basis, especially once conference play begins.  Another senior, Omari Grier, also played his best game so far, getting his first start and scoring 8 points on 4-5 shooting with 3 rebounds.  He brought poise and patience to the offense, something expected but rarely seen from him this season.

Freshman Jonathan Laurent, listed as questionable before the game along with Sanders, played his best game as well.  He scored 10 points off the bench on 5-10 shooting and added 7 rebounds.  He brought energy and aggressiveness to the game.  Rutgers needs him to continue to develop, as performances like tonight from him would give a big boost to this team. Fellow freshman Justin Goode continued solid play off the bench, leading the team with 4 assists. Goode and Laurent linked up on a pretty alley-oop dunk on a set play after a timeout.

On the flip side, starters Mike Williams and Deshawn Freeman combined to shoot 3-19 from the field, scoring just 11 points between them.  The fact that Rutgers even had a chance to win with these two being so ineffective is encouraging.  However, Williams and Freeman need to be consistent scorers for Rutgers to beat teams as good as Wake Forest.  To make matters worse, Bishop Daniels no showed, scoring just 2 points on 1-5 shooting and had 4 turnovers. Ibrahima Diallo fouled out with 11 minutes to play and failed to score with just 3 rebounds.

Despite several disappointing performances from key players, Rutgers would have won had they shot better than 11-18 from the free throw line. Rutgers only had 10 turnovers to Wake's 18, but only had 6 assists for the entire game.  Too many quick shots and bad shot selection, resulting in poor team play on the offensive end. The defensive effort was there most of the game, until their offense broke down and Wake took advantage. Rutgers shot just 36% from the field and were only 3-15 from three-point range.

Rutgers is now 3-4 with their second one possession, last second loss of the season.  It doesn't get any easier as Seton Hall comes to the RAC for a noon tip-off on Saturday. There are positive signs from this team, but until they can put together a complete effort for 40 minutes and learn to close out games, frustrating losses will continue.