This game was the tipping point for me. I had hope that this was a game Rutgers could win, despite everything that has happened so far this season. The greatest team in program history, the 1975-1976 Final Four team, was honored at halftime. All of coach Eddie Jordan's old teammates were at the RAC to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their historic season. Jahlil Tripp became the first commitment for the 2016 recruiting class and fellow recruit Maishe Dailey was on his official visit. I thought the team, after a somewhat spirited second half against Maryland, would come out focused and play with energy. I could not have been more wrong. Rutgers was completely embarrassed, losing by 34 points to Nebraska (9-8; 1-3).
This game was not competitive immediately from the start, with Nebraska leading 14-2 at the first TV timeout, shooting 5-5 from the field, including two three-pointers. It only got worse from there. Nebraska shot 18-33 for 54.5% from the field and held a 22-12 rebounding edge at the half, leading 46-26 at the break. In the first half, Rutgers shot just 8-24 for 33% in addition to almost non-existent defense, a miserable combination. Nebraska ran shorthanded Rutgers all over the court, pushing the pace throughout the game.
Rutgers gave up way too many open looks from outside. They allowed way too many easy, close looks within 5 feet of the basket. Their defense was absolutely atrocious against an average team at best, in Nebraska. After Rutgers has played gutty at various times this season, this one was by far their worst effort of the season. Worse than the 29 point loss to Seton Hall and worse than the 34 point loss to George Washington. I hate to say it, but it was a heartless performance. You can't blame only having seven scholarship players for this one. It was a complete no-show by this team.
Mike Williams came off the bench instead of starting tonight and was the only one that played well tonight, scoring 22 points on 7-12 from the field and 7-7 from the free throw line. He was aggressive, driving to the basket and taking high percentage shots close to the rim. He utilized pump fakes on the perimeter, getting his defender off their feet, and taking the basketball to the rim with authority. It was great to see from the sophomore, who is starting to heat up again, averaging 17 points on 17-34 from the field (50%) in his last three games.
No one else on the team finished in double figures in scoring, with Corey Sanders coming close with 9 points. However, he did not play well, shooting just 2-12 from the field and settling for jumper after jumper. Many of those were fadeaway attempts and off the dribble, settling for bad looks. He was 0-5 from three-points range and had just 2 assists to 3 turnovers. Sanders has taken a big step back his last three games since winning Big Ten freshman of the week honors and playing well against Indiana. Perhaps it is just growing pains, but it is concerning nonetheless.
Bishop Daniels was aggressive and drove to the basket often, but couldn't finish in the first half much at all. He started the second half well, but then settled for jumpers the rest of the game, many were ill-advised shots. Omari Grier came back to earth with a thud, shooting 0-5 from the field, finishing with just 3 points after averaging 16 points in the previous four games. D.J. Foreman, the best frontcourt option Rutgers has left, shot only four times and was a complete non-factor. He finished with just 6 points and 1 rebound, not nearly the production Rutgers needs from Foreman. Justin Goode had two nice assists but only shot twice, hitting one three-pointer.
This game proved how far Rutgers really is from returning to respectability. And it's miles upon miles away. Eddie Jordan should be mortified. I have gone back and forth this season on whether Jordan was the coach to lead Rutgers out of the doldrums. I am officially done thinking he can turn it around. This team is undisciplined, plays terrible defense and consistently loses battles to loose balls. This was the second game in a row that he didn't utilize the 2-3 zone early and often enough in the first half. Once he did call for the zone in the second half, the game was already out of reach and Rutgers played with zero intensity on defense. They were outrebounded by Nebraska 46-28 for the game and shot just 33% from the field, including 2-17 (12%) from three-point range. Nebraska scored at will, shooting 57% from the field.
Eddie Jordan was brought in to heal the program after the Mike Rice scandal. He has brought class and integrity back to the program and he deserves credit for that. But the team hasn't been this bad in years, likely on their way to having the fewest wins for the program since Rutgers won 9 games twenty years ago. On a night the greatest team in program history was honored, its pretty clear the star point guard from that team is leading the program backwards. That's something for a program that is on its way to a tenth consecutive losing season. Rock bottom is here. Time to start over Mr. Hobbs. A passionate and proud fanbase begs you!