This was a tough one to swallow, which is a positive step in the right direction for Rutgers basketball. They went on the road and gave first place Maryland a very tough game, but ultimately the Terps had too much offensive firepower for Rutgers to keep up with. Some timely three-pointers, coupled with terrible free throw shooting by Rutgers, resulted in a 67-55 loss. However, there were certainly plenty of positives in this game for a program proving on a nightly basis that they will be a tough out for any Big Ten opponent.
Key Moments of the 1st Half
Rutgers fell behind 18-11 with 9:13 remaining and head coach Steve Pikiell called a timeout immediately after Justin Jackson made a runner in the lane. As he has most of the season, Pikiell knows exactly when to stop play and reset his team. They responded in a big way, as Nigel Johnson made a three-pointer and followed with a fast break that Mike Williams dished to Corey Sanders for the layup. It sparked an impressive 14-4 run that put them up 25-22 with 4 plus minutes left after Sanders made a three-pointer.
Maryland responded and stormed into the break on a 12-4 run that gave them a 5 point lead at halftime. Melo Trimble hit two huge shots from behind the arc, keying the momentum swing. It was a spirited half from Rutgers, but they faltered at the free throw line again, making just 5 of 12, leaving points off the board.
Key Moments of the 2nd Half
After Maryland scored two baskets in less than a minute after the break, Pikiell called another timeout at the right time. Rutgers responded again with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 3 points. CJ Gettys had a nice sequence with a great lob pass to Freeman for an alley-oop dunk, a strong close out on defense, followed by a slam dunk on a Sanders miss the other end.
After a scramble for a loose ball soon after that series of plays, Eugene Omoruyi called a timeout. Rutgers could not regain their momentum and Maryland caught fire from behind the arc, hitting 4 of 5 attempts in a 5 minute period, resulting in a 16-3 run that buried Rutgers in a deep hole.
With the game slipping away, Rutgers never gave up and forced 5 turnovers from Maryland in a 4 minute stretch that cut a 16 point lead down to 9 with 5 minutes left in the contest.
The Game Was Over When...
Rutgers went scoreless for a three minute stretch that Maryland only made two free throws during, but there simply wasn’t enough time to come back with the deficit hovering around 10 points.
What We Learned
Missed free throws absolutely killed Rutgers in this game and it cost them an opportunity to really give Maryland a scare down the stretch. The frustrating part is the best two players on the team were the biggest culprits, as Freeman was just 2 of 6 and Sanders finished 4 of 8. As a team, Rutgers finished 10 of 24 from the line, which is a recipe for disaster in trying to win on the road, especially against a top team like the Terps.
Pikiell can flat out coach. He turned the first half around with his timely timeout down 7 points and Maryland threatening to push the lead to double digits. It’s not just that he knows how to stop momentum of the opposition though, as Rutgers always seems to come out of the timeout and execute a set play to perfection, sparking a run of their own. He also had this team ready to play after a relatively quick turnaround from Saturday’s win. As hard as the team is playing each game, Pikiell is putting them in the best position he can on a nightly basis.
Corey Sanders struggled mightily in the second half, after carrying Rutgers in the opening frame with 13 points. He only scored 2 points after the break on 0 of 8 shooting from the floor. Maryland took him out of the game and Rutgers didn’t have enough weapons to respond. This is something to watch for, as Sanders needs other players to hit some key shots or the opposing teams will continue to double him at times and make it a priority to shut him down.
Players of the Game
Maryland - Melo Trimble
After missing practice yesterday due to being sick, Trimble performed like the all-conference player that he is. He provided the back breaking three’s at the end of the first half and another to ignite a run later in the game. Melo finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists on 5 of 8 shooting from the floor.
Rutgers - Nigel Johnson
It’s been nice to see improved play from the guard the past few games, as his shot selection has improved and he is playing with more poise. He is also starting to make some shots from behind the arc, following his 3 for 3 performance against Nebraska with a 2 of 5 night in this game. Nigel finished with 14 points and added 4 rebounds, as well as 2 steals.
Maryland shot 40% from three-point range on 8 of 20 attempts, becoming just the second Big Ten opponent to shoot better than 33% from deep against Rutgers in conference play.
Rutgers grabbed 22 offensive rebounds and won the battle of second chance points by a 19-11 tally. However, they missed far too many putbacks that they desperately needed to keep this game close.
Maryland committed 18 turnovers, another sign that the defense of Rutgers caused a lot of trouble for the Terps. CJ Gettys swiped 4 steals in this game, as he played scrappy down the stretch.He also added 6 points and 4 boards.
Rutgers shot just 34% from the field, 27% from behind the arc, and 44% from the free throw line. That’s just terrible offense, there is no other way to say it. Shot selection wasn’t awful, Rutgers just cannot make enough baskets to keep them in games against good teams.
Rutgers faces another ranked team on Saturday against Wisconsin at Madison Square Garden in a faux home game. The Badgers were tied with Maryland for first place in the Big Ten entering tonight, so this is a brutal week schedule-wise. Rutgers did give Wisconsin fits at times on the defensive end in their first meeting, but they ultimately lost on the road by 20 points. Hopefully, the Rutgers faithful will turn out for the noon tip at the Garden and support this team.
There was a lot to like from Rutgers in the first half tonight, but ultimately Maryland exerted their will and shot them out of the building from behind the arc. On the flip side, the Scarlet Knights continue to punish themselves with the self-inflicted wound of wasting points from the charity stripe. It’s incredibly frustrating, as this could have been an entirely different game if they even shot at their season average of 64%. At the end of the day, this team has trouble scoring in every way, as they have yet to eclipse 65 points in a Big Ten game this season.
With that being said, you have to love the fight and effort this team is putting forward, game in and game out. They played with energy through the bitter end in this game and that is extremely encouraging. At times, this team was elite on the defensive end and frustrated Maryland quite a bit. They accomplished the goal of holding them under 70 points, but they couldn’t put it together offensively. However, it’s obvious how Pikiell has this team locked in under his direction and they’re giving everything they have out there. They have to continue working and plugging away, as the second half of the Big Ten schedule is more manageable and presents some winnable games in February and beyond. Progress is most definitely happening on the court. Being frustrated with this tough loss against a first place team in the Big Ten proves that fact alone and is a big step forward from last season.