PISCATAWAY N.J. – Despite a second-half comeback and a stingy defensive effort, Rutgers (11-4, 2-2) could not recover from a slow start offensively, dropping its matchup with No. 21/20 Cincinnati (14-3, 2-2), 68-58, Saturday evening at the RAC.
Early struggles on the offensive end allowed Cincinnati and Cashmere Wright, who scored a game-high 19 points, to build a double-digit lead late in the first half. The Scarlet Knights were paced by sophomore guard Myles Mack (Paterson, N.J.) who was the lone RU player in double-figures with 15 points. The loss was the first on the RAC hardwood since RU dropped its season-opener.
Rutgers cut the lead to eight with 45.8 seconds remaining by forcing Cincinnati to the free-throw line multiple times in the closing two minutes. It would be as close as the Scarlet Knights would come, as the Bearcats made the most of its trips to the charity stripe (23-32) in the contest to seal the victory.
After falling to a 17-point deficit, the Scarlet Knights battled back, going on a 9-0 run to cut the UC lead to 40-30 with under 12 minutes to play. Mack spearheaded the run with seven of his 15 points.
The RU scoring spurt was broken up by a Wright three pointer. RU responded with three straight buckets down low to redshirt sophomore Kadeem Jack (Queens, N.Y.), redshirt junior Wally Judge (Washington, D.C.), and senior Austin Johnson (Elkins Park, Pa.), respectively. The 6-0 run cut the lead to nine with 9:15 to go regulation, the first time Cincinnati lead by less than 10 points since 4:59 remained in the first half.
The Bearcats built upon their lead to open to second half, going on a 7-2 run through the first four minutes of the frame. RU converted its first field goal of the period courtesy of a layup by senior wing Dane Miller (Rosedale, N.Y.), who finished with six points, at the 15:44 mark.
Both teams struggled offensively from the outset, as an elbow jumper by junior guard Mike Poole (Rosedale, N.Y.) at the 14:34 marked gave the Scarlet Knights their first points of the contest. Both teams shot below 30 percent from the field in the half, with RU (21.1 percent) converting just four shots from the floor. Four of Cincinnati’s nine baskets came from beyond the arc, where the Bearcats attempted 16 shots.
Cincinnati built a double-digit lead late in the first half, as an 8-0 Bearcat run pushed their lead to 19-7 with 5:34 remaining in the period. A pair of baskets by Johnson snapped RU’s scoring drought, cutting the lead to eight with under four minutes remaining in the period.
But timely shooting by Cincinnati kept the pressure on the Scarlet Knights, as a put back layup by Cincy’s Jermain Sanders with six seconds remaining on the clock gave the Bearcats a 27-15 halftime lead.
Both squads went 20-for-53 (37.7 percent) from the field in the contest.
The Scarlet Knights return to the RAC on Thursday to face off against USF. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m.
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- This marks the first home loss for RU since Nov. 9 (seven-game win streak). RU moves to 7-2 at the RAC.
- The 15 points marked the fewest RU has scored in a half since 14 against Villanova (second half) on March 6, 2012. RU last scored 15 or fewer in the first half on Feb. 6, 2008 vs. St. John’s.
- The .211 shooting marked the lowest output in a half since March 6, 2012 vs. Villanova (second half). In the first half, the .211 percentage signaled the lowest since Feb. 6, 2008 vs. STJ.
- For the fourth time this season, Rutgers posted less than 10 turnovers with nine.
- Rutgers drops to 4-13 in the all-time series against Cincinnati, including 3-6 in BIG EAST regular season play. RU is 2-4 against UC at the RAC.
- Myles Mack posted double-figures for the 11th time this season and 26th of his career with 15 points. The sophomore paced the team in scoring for the fourth time this season.
- Austin Johnson scored eight points, moving his average to 9,3 when coming off the bench in three games.
- Rutgers falls to 4-2 when being outrebounded by its opponent.
- For just the fourth time this season, RU shot less free throws than its opponent, falling to 2-2 in those games.
- Of the nine players that saw action, eight players scored four-plus.
- Head coach Mike Rice went with the starting lineup of Seagears, Mack, Carter, Judge and Miller for the second-straight game. The Scarlet Knights move to 1-1 with this lineup.
- The Scarlet Knights move to 3-3 when less than three players score 10-plus points.
- For the third time this season, just one player posted double-figures.
- RU drops to 2-3 when scoring less than 60 points.
- Dane Miller was named the Rutgers Court Club Player of the Month for December. Miller posted an 11.0 points per game average while grabbing a team-best 6.0 rebounds. Miller also dished out 18 assists and totaled nine steals as the Scarlet Knights posted a 5-1 record.
- Miller now owns 39-straight starts.
Rutgers Head Coach Mike Rice
Opening Statement: “I give a lot of credit to Cincinnati, especially in the first half. Offensively, especially the first option, it wasn’t there and so the second and third option we didn’t get to. When we got 1-on-1, we relied too much on our three-point, perimeter shooting, and that’s playing into Cincinnati’s hands. They played hard and that’s why they got the victory.”
On Learning from the Loss: “We have to learn from this. We’re going to be in this spot again taking the next step forward. We’ve got to learn that, in the Big East, if things aren’t going well you don’t rely on the jump shot. You have to score in the paint, you have to draw contact, you have to get to the free-throw line. It’s not like we stopped playing hard — we held a tremendous team to 37 percent shooting. Our pressure was effective in the second half, we just never finished a possession off in the second half. Playing a little soft in the first half and a lot of not finishing in the second half was a deadly equation.”
On Getting Beat on the Offensive Glass: “It’s incredibly draining. Again, we tried hard, we just didn’t respond the way I would like in the first half and didn’t come in tough and relied too much on jump shots. [In the] second half we just had to finish a possession off. But Cincinnati, that’s what they do. They want running and jumping they want doubling on the first pass They really made it a half-court game.”
On Eli Carter: “When you’re leading scorer has the type that he did; I think he just settled. When you’re the leading scorer and you are off, you’ve got to get to the paint and create either contact or opportunities for others and he’s not doing that right now. Really Cincinnati, wherever he was going, they had two or three guys on him, and now we have to take advantage of what he can do for us. But he’s got to get off the ball and create some opportunities for others. It’s hard because he realizes he has to score for us. But right now he’s taking low percentage shots and not getting fouled and that’s a tough equation.”
Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin
Game thoughts: “(It was a) great effort by our guys. We’re trying to get back to being one the best defensive teams in the Big East, if not the country. There was a time when we were giving up 34.5 percent from the field. To beat quality teams - and Rutgers has a very good team and Mike has done a great job with this program - we needed to get back to holding teams to 30 percent from the field.”
“We won the game in the first half, with getting separation and doing a tremendous job on the defensive end. (It was) unbelievable to play a half with no turnovers. Rutgers had zero points on the fast break.”
“Cashmere Wright played outstanding and we showed great toughness as a team. We also got some great contributions from a lot of people, but Cashmere was clearly the best player on the floor tonight. I asked him to do a lot. I tried to keep the ball in his hands more and made some adjustments offensively. He responded with 33 minutes and zero turnovers against a team that was trailing all night and was coming after him. To be able to do that is very, very hard. Much harder than the stat sheet can show.”
On the defense against Eli Carter: “It’s not easy and we did it as a team and tried to make it hard on him. Anybody who’s a scorer at the level that he’s a scorer, if you let them get started and get a rhythm then it becomes really hard to stop them. We really did a great job of never letting him get started. Our support on him was really key.”