There are must-win games and can’t lose games.
On Tuesday night, Rutgers returned to Jersey Mike’s Arena after a two-game road trip to face lowly Nebraska. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, the Scarlet Knights turned in a performance that fans in the building did not fall in love with.
Rutgers dropped its third consecutive game, a 82-72 loss to the Cornhuskers. The Scarlet Knights logged one of their worst defensive performances of the season as Nebraska shot 58.2% from the field.
Rutgers fell behind in the first half as the Huskers shot 65% and took a five-point lead during the break. They converted all but one layup and scored 22 points in the paint. Despite turning the ball over eight times, Nebraska was efficient when it was able to take care of the ball.
CJ Wilcher, a high school teammate of Cliff Omoruyi at Roselle Catholic, scored nine of his 17 points on his first three. Rutgers also had no answer for Keisei Tominaga, who finished with 22 points on 8-for-15 from the field.
The Scarlet Knights trailed for the final 21 minutes of the game and Nebraska went up double-digits late in the game.
Aundre Hyatt led Rutgers with 24 points. Paul Mulcahy made his only field goal of the night late in the second half but dished out 12 assists.
This marks the second Quadrant 3 loss of the season for Rutgers. It is a loss that significantly impacts the Scarlet Knights’ standing in the Big Ten in terms of a double-bye come tournament time. Also, once a threat on the four or five line, Rutgers is likely falling near the seven or eight seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Scarlet Knights will be back in action on Saturday as the travel to Madison to take on Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Rutgers won its last meeting with the Badgers on the road but this is not the place it wants to be to end a three-game skid. After dropping what can be categorized as a can’t-lose game, Rutgers will have to find a way to get back on track and win a game it might not be expected to.