Corey Sanders picked up where he left off against Illinois and took charge of this game from the opening tip. He could not be stopped and was relentless in attacking the rim. The entire team was in the flow of the offense and taking quality shots. When Sanders drove into the paint and found Omari Grier on the perimeter for a wide open three, he knocked it down and Rutgers led 33-27 with 7:34 to play in the first half. It was a great start on the road after Wednesday's triple overtime loss to Illinois.
Unfortunately, the TV timeout followed shortly after and two things changed at that moment. Eddie Jordan decided to rest Sanders for a couple of minutes and Nebraska coach Tim Miles switched to a 2-3 zone on defense. Rutgers had the ball, promptly turned it over, fouled, and then Nebraska quickly tied it. Sanders entered soon after but the Cornhuskers had momentum and Rutgers failed to adjust to the zone. Nebraska finished the first half on an 18-3 run and led 45-36 at the half.
Rutgers continued an all too familiar theme, getting run on as soon as the second half whistle blew, as Nebraska jumped out on a 12-6 run to take a 57-42 lead at the first TV timeout. Rutgers got the lead down to 11 soon after courtesy of a tomahawk dunk by Sanders, but they proceeded to turn it over on the next two possessions falling back down by 15 with 10 minutes to play. The rest of the game was nothing more than a formality at that point, and Rutgers fell 87-63.
It was the same story on defense for Rutgers, as they continue to allow their opponent open looks from behind the arc. Nebraska is not a great shooting team from deep, but any major conference team will make you pay for repeated open looks from three-point range. It's just baffling why Rutgers rarely changes looks and never implemented a 2-3 zone. Why not attempt to play a box and one by putting pressure on Nebraska's best player, Andrew White, who scored 20+ points and dominated Rutgers a second time this season.
Rutgers continues to struggle against the 2-3 zone defense and looked completely lost when Nebraska pulled it out late in the first half. Instead of attacking it, they stopped looking to drive and started settling for jumpers again. Why Eddie Jordan didn't call for a big man, like Jonathan Laurent, to plant himself at the free throw line and either drive to the rim or dish out to a guard I don't know? The lack of adjustments on both ends of the floor, game after game, is frustrating beyond belief.
Corey Sanders continues to excel and demonstrate what a truly special player he is. He now is starting to realize that he is uncoverable when he brings his "A" game. His first step, crossover dribble, court vision, and finishing ability is at an elite level. Sanders followed up his 39 point, 12 assist, 8 rebound, and 4 steal effort Wednesday against Illinois with a 28 point, 5 assist, 3 rebound, and 2 steal game today. Even more impressive, his shot selection was much improved, leading to a 12-20 performance from the floor, including 2-3 from behind the arc. It's time for Eddie to realize Sanders cannot come off the court because this team falls apart as soon as he does. You can't fault Eddie for giving him a quick rest in the first half, but Rutgers never had a lead the rest of the game.
Bishop Daniels responded in a big way off the bench with 13 points on 6-11 shooting from the floor. He also had 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists. After forcing bad shots and not scoring against Illinois, Daniels was aggressive and attacked the rim with authority the entire game. The problem was no other player scored in double figures, as the rest of the team shot a combined 6-27 from the floor. Balanced scoring continues to be a major issue. Mike Williams and Jonathan Laurent had bad games, combining for just 9 points on 3-14 from the floor.
There was a scary moment midway through the second half, when Nebraska player Shavon Shields awkwardly fell after a hard foul of D.J. Foreman. He was down on the court for several minutes before being carted off on a stretcher. The TV announcers said he was knocked out but had awoken and was moving his extremities. We wish him a speedy recovery. Before the injury, Shields punished Rutgers inside, as he finished with 17 points. Husker star Andrew White torched Rutgers again and finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
Rutgers falls to 6-18 overall and is now 0-11 in conference play. It is now 26 straight Big Ten games with a loss with just 7 regular season games remaining. A sobering fact is Rutgers lost by a combined 58 points in two games against Nebraska this season. It's one thing to not be competitive with the top teams in the conference. However, being completely non-competitive with Nebraska, a traditional basement team in the Big Ten, is an entirely different story. It has become clear that Eddie Jordan's biggest recruiting job this season will be to keep Corey Sanders from leaving after the season. Because Sanders is the only hope we have. Rutgers has the week off before returning next Saturday, where they play against Ohio State at the RAC.