With a chance to solidify its position for an NCAA Tournament berth, the no. 6 Rutgers men’s lacrosse team (8-3) suffered a damaging 12-10 loss to Johns Hopkins (4-8) in the Big Ten semifinals on Thursday night.
After the Blue Jays jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the Scarlet Knights appeared to settle down in taking a 3-2 lead and holding them scoreless for the next 15 minutes into the second period. However, Hopkins put together a 3-1 scoring run at the end of the period to head into halftime with a 7-5 lead.
JHU continued to assert control of the game by scoring the first two goals after the break en route to another 3-1 scoring run that had them in front 10-6 heading into the fourth period. Rutgers fought hard and scored three consecutive goals to trail by just one with 9:44 left in the game. However, Connor DeSimone scored for Hopkins soon after and then a a critical penalty was called against Tommy Coyne for a cross check left RU man down with just over 5 minutes to play. Hopkins took advantage as DeSimone assisted on Garrett Degnon’s third goal of the game with 4:22 remaining to seal the victory for the Blue Jays.
Despite holding a 42-36 shot advantage and +3 turnover margin, Rutgers was dominated on face-offs, as JHU won 19 of 26 in the game. They also held a 34-26 advantage in ground balls over the Scarlet Knights. The RU offense was also just 1 of 3 with extra man opportunities, while Hopkins was 2 of 4.
The inability of Rutgers to generate scoring opportunities in transition was a major factor in the loss.
“We had our opportunities, we just came up a little bit short today,” head coach Brian Brecht said. “ It’s a sixty minute game, all the plays matter. We didn’t make enough plays throughout the game to come out on top today. Every game matters. We came up a little short today but we had eight Big Ten wins this year. That is impressive. I’m very proud and thankful for the efforts that this team gave all year long. In the preseason, there were five Big Ten teams in the top-20 and there was a reason for that. It’s pretty clear the season we had and the successes we had, and I give our guys a lot of credit for that.”
Connor Kirst and Adam Charalambides (1 assist) each scored twice and had three ground balls, while Kieran Mullins had a goal and two assists. Goalkeeper Colin Kirst had 12 saves and led the team with 5 ground balls.
Despite an 8-3 record and RPI ranking of 13 entering this game, the Scarlet Knights are no longer in control of its own destiny with only eight at-large bids available. With the Big Ten not having played a non-conference schedule and Rutgers not having beaten a team with a winning record, they appear to be firmly on the bubble despite being ranked no. 6 nationally. US Lacrosse Magazine listed RU as the last team projected to make the NCAA Tournament in an article published on Friday.
If no. 6 seed Johns Hopkins upsets regular season champion and undefeated Maryland on Saturday in the Big Ten Championship, they’ll earn the automatic bid. The top seeded Terps would then receive an at-large bid and would likely knock Rutgers on the wrong side of the bubble. While the first place team losing to the last place team may seem unlikely, Hopkins has won two Big Ten Tournament games in a row and anything can happen in a rivalry game with an NCAA bid on the line.
Syracuse is another team to watch for and despite a 6-5 record, they play in a loaded ACC and have an RPI ranking of 6. They’ll play a non-conference game on Friday that is a must-win against Robert Morris (7-5, RPI no. 26), who could play spoiler for the Orange.
Another upstate New York team to keep track of is Colgate, who play Patriot League regular season champion Lehigh in the tournament semifinals on Friday. If they make a surprise run and win the Patriot League tournament, it would likely spell trouble for Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are hoping now that they’ve done enough to earn the program’s first NCAA bid in 17 years. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will air live on ESPNU this Sunday, May 9 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
The Rutgers women’s lacrosse team will find out its fate at the same time and are hoping to end a 22 year drought to the Big Dance after winning a program record six Big Ten wins, five coming against ranked foes.
I’ll have a bracketology update for both programs on Sunday morning.