On a day that began with hope and a fast start from Rutgers, saw both quickly washed away as if the rain from outside came down through the roof of the RAC. An awful shooting performance from Rutgers and a loss of focus when adversity struck led to a game busting run by Maryland that ruined what was a fired up home crowd early on. Foul trouble resulted in Eugene Omoruyi and Montez Mathis, the two best players for Rutgers at the start of this game, that sent the home team into a tailspin that they were unable to recover from. Maryland cruised to a 77-63 victory that was not nearly as close as the final score indicates. It was an extremely disappointing performance overall.
First Half Summary
Rutgers came out with energy and purpose at the start, jumping out to an five point lead at the first media timeout almost six minutes into the game. After Eugene Omoruyi exited with two quick early fouls, freshman and Maryland native Montez Mathis stepped up. He exhibited more confidence during a one minute stretch than he had all season, slamming home a ferocious dunk despite contact from Maryland and then connected on a high arcing, deep three-pointer on the following possession to give Rutgers a 11-6 lead.
It continued to be a grind for both teams and Rutgers was still in front at 13-7 midway through the opening frame. However, Mathis picked up his second foul on a questionable call on a drive that took away a potential and-1 situation. It was already the 7th foul called on Rutgers and the Terps made both free throws to cut the lead to four. After Shaq Carter hit a much needed short jumper, Maryland’s leading scorer Anthony Cowan Jr. scored his first points of the game. After Bruno Fernando grabbed an offensive rebound on the next possession, he finished and was fouled, making the free throw and giving the Terps a 17-15 lead with just over eight minutes left in the half.
Head coach Steve Pikiell countered trailing by three by inserting Omoruyi with two fouls after the media timeout. Soon after, Gene missed a shot and Mathis got into a scrum with the much bigger Fernando. It was the third foul called on Mathis, who was clearly frustrated and lucky not to have a hook and hold flagrant one called instead. Fernando made both free throws to give Maryland a 20-15 lead. It grew to 24-15 on a 17-2 run by the visitors, forcing Pikiell to call a timeout with 4:55 left in the half. Rutgers hadn’t scored in four minutes.
It grew to a 21-2 run and 13 point lead before a Myles Johnson dunk just three minutes left in the half. However, Cowan Jr. answered with a three-pointer on the next Terps possession. Pikiell called another timeout trailing 33-17 after a Maryland transition layup. The Terps stormed into the locker room with a commanding 40-19 lead at the break. Rutgers shot 26% from the floor, had a -9 rebounding margin and committed 11 turnovers.
Second Half Summary
Out of the break, Rutgers came out with energy and scored the first six points of the second half. Pikiell changed it up defensively out of the timeout, calling for a 2-3 zone. Maryland scored a three and a inside basket on its first two possessions against it, which then had Rutgers switch back to man to man. The Scarlet Knights looked a step slow defensively even after the switch back, as Cowan Jr. knocked down a wide open three to give Maryland 50-29 lead. Peter Kiss finally hit one of his own, his first points of the game, but Cowan Jr. scored yet again on the next Terps possession. Any hope of a comeback was laid to rest and Maryland led by as much as 27 points. While Rutgers finished the game on a 14-2 run, the issue was well over at that point. The final score was 77-63.
The Game Turned On
With Omoruyi on the bench already with two fouls and Mathis called for his second on a questionable charge call, Rutgers completely fell apart at the midway point of the first half. They finished the opening frame making just 1 of 10 shots from the field and committed 7 turnovers. No one stepped up on either end of the floor and it quickly got out of hand against a young but very talented Maryland squad.
It Was Over When
Unfortunately, Maryland ended all doubt with that aforementioned run in the first half, silencing the sold out crowd at the RAC for good. With Rutgers leading 13-7 at the midway point of the half, but were outscored 33-6 the final ten minutes before the break. Rutgers couldn’t do anything right and handled the adversity of having some calls go against them poorly. They simply can’t self-destruct like they did in this game or they’ll struggle against any Big Ten team they face the rest of the way.
Players Of The Game
For Maryland, it was a balanced effort, as five players finished in double figures scoring wise. Jalen Smith had 16 points and 6 rebounds, while Fernando was an intimidating figure inside, doing a little bit of everything. He finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
For Rutgers, Montez Mathis played with an edge and was fired up against his home state team. He did lose his cool in the first half after having the charge call go against him, as the hooking foul on Fernando was a classic freshman mistake. However, it was great to see him play confidently and driving to the rim with authority. He finished with 11 points on 4 of 10 shooting, as well as 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Mathis was the only Rutgers player to finish on the positive side of the +/- with a +7 rating. Omoruyi led Rutgers with 12 points on 4 of 10 shooting, but had just 2 rebounds and was 0-3 from three-point range. He needs to be more of a factor inside for Rutgers to compete in Big Ten play.
Key Team Stats
Rutgers didn’t lose the rebounding battle by much (39-36), but were dominated on the glass during that dominating 10 minute run at the end of the first half. While they won the battle on the offensive glass (9-6) and second chance points (10-6), it wasn’t enough of an edge to remain competitive.
Rutgers did an excellent job of not committing a turnover in the second half, but 11 in the first half and 7 during that crippling run was simply too sloppy for them to stay in the game. Rutgers also lost the points off of turnover battle 17-10 and failed to exploit Maryland’s weakness in giving up the basketball, as they finished with only 11 turnovers as well.
Ultimately, shooting was the biggest deficiency, as Rutgers finished the game at just 37% from the floor. They struggled from three-point range once again, making only 6 of 21 attempts for 29%. Geo Baker continued his poor shooting, making just 1 of 10 overall and 1 of 6 from behind the arc.
What We Learned
Rutgers was a mess on the offensive end and it crippled any chance to compete after a strong start to the game. Passing, ball movement, shot selection, and taking care of the basketball was poor for much of the first half. They played better in the second half, but it was far too late. They never got the game back within a single digit margin and overall missed far too many shots. To be competitive in league play and knock off a top half Big Ten team, Rutgers needs to be much better offensively and can’t shut down for such a prolonged stretch as they did in the first half.
The Scarlet Knights need to recharge quickly as #14 Ohio State comes to the RAC on Wednesday night. The Buckeyes (12-2; 2-1) will be looking to get back on track after losing to #8 Michigan State at home 86-77 on Saturday afternoon. Rutgers is now 7-6 overall and 0-3 in Big Ten action.
For Dave White’s four thoughts, click here.