Rutgers has played its last game for the 2022-23 season — and it ended in a fitting way.
Just two days after the committee made the decision to leave Rutgers out of the NCAA Tournament, the Scarlet Knights suffered an 88-86 loss to Hofstra in the first round of the NIT at Jersey Mike’s Arena.
How did it happen? A blown lead in the final 25 seconds and a missed opportunity before the final buzzer.
Cam Spencer led Rutgers with 22 points as Rutgers found itself in a high-scoring battle with a fast-paced team. The Pride came in and was not afraid to run and it showed late. Caleb McConnell (13 points) scored two baskets in a row to put Rutgers up with with less than a minute to play. Hofstra would close out regulation on a 5-0 run to force overtime.
In the extra period, Derek Simpson made a layup to tie the game with 32 seconds but Tyler Thomas followed it up with a jump shot to regain the lead for Hofstra. On the final possession of the night, Simpson drove the lane and opted for a floater that rolled out. Cliff Omoruyi was in position for an alley-oop that would have tied the game. He did not get the lob and was out of position for a rebound.
This win marked the first postseason victory for Hofstra since 2006. It was also the first home game in the NIT for the Scarlet Knights since 2004, a victory over Villanova to advance to the semifinal.
The Scarlet Knights built a double-digit lead early in the first half but Hofstra would go on a 26-16 run to tie the game at 30. The Pride took its first lead with 11 minutes left in the game after an 18-7 run. Rutgers would respond with a 9-0 run of its own in a back-and-forth second half. The second half was a game of runs and Hofstra put together the most important one at the end of regulation.
During the contest, McConnell grabbed his 221st steal of his career, making him the all-time steals leader in Rutgers history. He passed Eddie Jordan for the top spot.
The Scarlet Knights had a golden opportunity to prove the committee wrong in the NIT as one of the No. 1 seeds. This means that Rutgers had home games lined up if it was able to continue to win. In the end, the Scarlet Knights did not defend home court and the defense was not there as they allowed 88 points.
To all Rutgers’ fans after an emotional and stressful few weeks, we’ll see you next year...