PISCATAWAY -- After the greatest win of the Steve Pikiell era at Rutgers, it was only fitting the Scarlet Knights suffer their worst loss under him to the team he left to come to Piscataway.
From the highest of highs after an upset win over in-state rival Seton Hall, Rutgers dropped a heart-wrenching 75-73 defeat to the Seawolves in overtime.
“I want to give Stony Brook a lot of credit; they deserved to win, and we didn’t,” said Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell. “It’s a tough lesson. I was worried about this game, just as I was last year when we won by one possession. I know they’re good and they were two points better today. Again, give them credit for outrebounding us with 23 offensive rebounds, which is unheard of here at the RAC. Tip of the hat.”
The Scarlet Knights led by five with 10 seconds to play, only to watch Stony Brook go on a swift 5-0 run to close out regulation thanks to the home side’s struggles to inbound the ball.
From there, the game went to overtime, which somehow found a way to end even more dramatically. Freshman Geo Baker hit a jumper to tie the game at 73 with 23 seconds to play, setting up a second overtime period, only to watch Jakub Petras hit a last-second jumper to win the game for the visitors.
For the masochist Rutgers fans and giddy Stony Brook supporters, here's a court-side look at the frantic finish at the RAC, in which the Seawolves hit a three-pointer with a second to go to stun the Scarlet Knights: pic.twitter.com/lzpkWMwy5z— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) December 23, 2017
The loss came far before the devastating shot in Pikiell’s eyes.
The Scarlet Knights failed to all the little things that allowed them to beat the Pirates last Saturday. They went a putrid 8-for-19 from the free throw line, were completely dominated on the glass and gave up 14 turnovers, including the crucial moment in the waning moments of regulation.
“You get what you deserve in basketball,” Pikiell said. “This was a tough week and we knew going into it off the big win, it was going to be difficult. We didn’t do a great job today. We missed a lot of free throws, lost some untimely possessions.”
Fonseca’s Four Observations:
Rutgers Got Beat At It’s Own Game
The Scarlet Knights failed to dominate at their biggest strength — rebounding — against the Seawolves.
Stony Brook controlled the glass all game, with the final rebounding margin finishing 44-26 in the Seawolves favor. The visitors claimed 23 offensive rebounds and got 18 second-chance points, using the recipe for the Scarlet Knights success against them.
“There were a lot of long rebounds, a lot of guard rebounds,” Pikiell said. “We just didn’t do a great job in that area. We have to go back to work. We have a couple days off. This game doesn’t make or break us. We have to learn from it, especially a lot of the young guys playing on the floor for the first time. We have to do a better job.”
To make up for the loss of their strength, Rutgers took advantage of the space Stony Brook left behind by dedicating bodies to rebounding with some fantastic transition offense.
The Scarlet Knights were credited with eight fast-break points, but that comes up a bit short of what the 4,675 fans at the RAC saw. Transition buckets made up an early 8-0 run alone, with big second-half plays like a Thiam three and a ferocious Freeman slam also coming on Rutgers fast-breaks.
In the end, however, it couldn’t fix it. As overheard in the Rutgers press room following the game, “Stony Brook out-Pikiell’d Rutgers.”
“It came down to rebounding at the end of the day,” Pikiell said. “They are an OK rebounding team, but they were a great rebounding team tonight.”
2) Mike William’s Millennium Milestone Marginalized
Mike Williams knew what was at stake when he walked into the Rutgers Athletic Center Friday afternoon. That much was clear when the senior guard came as close as he possibly could to the 1,000 career point mark he was six shy of entering the night.
After he hit his first two field goal attempts and came within two points of the millennium mark, Williams tried as hard as he could to get the third and final bucket he needed — a little too hard. The Brooklyn native forced shots that weren’t there, throwing up a couple of wild attempts with defenders in good position in front of him. He missed his next six attempts from the floor and going 1-for-2 from the free throw line to come within a point in the meantime.
Regulation came and went and Williams remained stuck at five points, one shy of the goal.
He eventually reached the mark in overtime, an up-and-under circus lay-up far from optimal that found its way through the hoop.
There it is - an up-and-under for Mike Williams puts the senior at 1,001 career points. pic.twitter.com/zS0jxx07SX— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) December 23, 2017
Williams added another three points with a trey soon after. But he’d take it all back if it meant his team getting a win.
“It’s a great accomplishment to go down in Rutgers history, but to be honest, I don’t really care for it at the moment,” Williams said. “Because we just lost a game I feel like we should have won. All the credit goes to Stony Brook.”
3) Issa Thiam Was Aggressive
The sophomore wing is often too timid for Steve Pikiell’s liking when he’s on the court, but that was not the case Friday night. Despite going 2-for-7 from the floor in the first half, with his first bucket being a questionable goaltend call, Thiam kept on shooting like he was hitting nothing from net with each attempt. He eventually hit some big shots in the second half — two coming from three and another on a tip-in off a missed Mike Williams shot.
While the results were obviously not what Rutgers wanted, the aggressiveness was a welcome sign.
“One thing he always does is work hard,” Pikiell said. “It’s encouraging when he hits some shots to help us out.”
The Scarlet Knights need shooting to consistently win in Big Ten play, Thiam is among their best shooters and he can’t put it in the basket if he doesn’t shoot the ball.
4) Deshawn Freeman’s Mixed Bag
The senior forward was feeling it on the offensive end of the floor. Freeman knocked down his first three shot attempts in a perfect first half. He finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including a 2-for-3 clip from downtown, a late basket that should have sealed the win in regulation and a jumper early in overtime that opened the scoring in overtime.
But that only tells half the story.
Usually good for a double-double, Freeman struggled mightily on the glass against an aggressive Stony Brook team. He finished with just six rebounds, well below the nine he averaged coming into the night. And as much as his offense was solid in the run of play, Freeman had a rough night from the free throw line, where he finished 2-for-6. He also finished with four fouls and three turnovers.
Freeman’s game symbolizes the past week for Rutgers — some really strong positives and some really bad negatives.