PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Despite leading by as much as eight in the first half, Rutgers (7-8, 1-1) was unable to knock off No. 14/10 Louisville (13-2, 2-0), falling 83-76 to last year’s NCAA National Champions Saturday night before 7,263 fans at the RAC.
Junior guard Myles Mack (Paterson, N.J.) led the Scarlet Knights with 19 points, shooting 6-of-13 from the field to go along with five assists and a steal. Junior guard/forward Craig Brown (Miami, Fla.) produced a career-high 17 points, while redshirt junior forward Kadeem Jack (Queens, N.Y) and freshman forward Junior Etou (Republic of Congo) also joined Mack and Brown in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Trailing by as much as 17 points, the Scarlet Knights hung tough with the reigning national champs throughout the second half. Jack’s free throw with 33 seconds remaining made it 77-71, but Louisville was able to convert its foul shots down the stretch to secure the win.
The Cardinals shot 46 free throws overall, making 41 to shoot an impressive 89.1 percent from the charity stripe. The Scarlet Knights were 24-of-32 from the foul line.
Rutgers jumped out to a 12-4 lead to start the game thanks to senior forward J.J. Moore (Brentwood, N.Y.), who drained two three-pointers during the opening minutes. Mack also had two field goals early on to force Louisville head coach Rick Pitino to call a timeout with 13:48 remaining in the half.
Rutgers shot 48 percent from the field in the first half, including 40 percent from behind the three-point line. Mack dropped 13 points in the opening period, shooting 5-of-8 from the field in the first half help pace the Scarlet Knights.
Louisville’s Luke Hancock knotted the game 17-17 with a three-pointer at the top of the key in the first half, but the Scarlet Knights answered with two straight buckets. Brown’s breakaway layup with 8:05 remaining in the half sent the RAC crowd into a frenzy and gave Rutgers a 21-17 lead.
Rutgers did not trail throughout the first half until 1:43 left in the opening period, when Louisville center Mangkok Mathiang drained two fouls shots to give the Cardinals a 30-29 lead. Louisville took a 39-33 lead into halftime.
Out of the locker room, Louisville went on a 27-to-7 scoring run thanks to the play of guard Russ Smith, who scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half. Hancock, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear joined Smith in double figures. Rutgers held the Cardinals to just 2-of-10 shooting from the three-point line, well below Louisville’s season average of 32 percent.
The Scarlet Knights out-rebounded the visitors by a 34-32 margin.
Rutgers returns to the hardwood next Saturday (Jan. 11) at Cincinnati. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. and will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network.
- The Scarlet Knights are now 1-12 all-time against Louisville.
- Junior guard Myles Mack led the team with 19 points. It marks the seventh straight game he has scored in double figures and the 12th time this season.
- Mack has now scored in double figures 50 times in his career.
- Junior forward Craig Brown scored a career-high 17 points. His previous best was eight, which he did twice, with the last coming vs. UNCG (Dec. 14).
- Brown made a career-high five field goals in the contest. His previous best was two, which he did twice.
- Brown played a career-high 23 minutes.
- Freshman forward Junior Etou scored a career-high 10 points. His previous best was nine vs. Temple (Jan. 1).
- Redshirt sophomore forward Greg Lewis tied his career high with two blocks in the game. He also had two vs. Temple (Jan. 1).
- Lewis played a season-high 15 minutes.
- Senior guard J.J. Moore tied his career-high with three assists. He had three four other times, with the last coming vs. Stillman this season (Nov. 25).
- Redshirt senior forward Wally Judge tied his career high with two steals. Prior to this, he had two on three separate occasions.
- Junior forward Kadeem Jack tallied 12 points, his 14th double-digit scoring game in the last 15 games he has played in.
- Rutgers had at least four players score in double figures for the 10th time this season and moved to 6-4 in those contests.
- Eddie Jordan went with the starting lineup of forward Junior Etou, forward Wally Judge, forward Kadeem Jack, guard Myles Mack and guard J.J. Moore for the third time.
Rutgers Head Coach Eddie Jordan
Opening Statement: "It was a game that I thought we competed pretty well. I just thought that we needed everyone to play well and at the top of their game, which we did not. A few guys, just a handful of guys, played at the top of their game. We need everybody to go in the game and play well. I was disappointed in the fact that we didn't handle their pressure as well as we could. [Louisville] pressures everybody. They do a good job. I thought we were prepared to handle it and to make more plays out of it, so there is disappointment, yet there are some things that we can learn from and move forward on."
On Louisville's pressure: "I just thought Louisville had spurts in their pressure defense that just had us rattled. They did a good job coming out and pursuing. They challenge you to finish. There are times to break the press and finish, then there are times to break the press and be organized and run the offense, and we got caught in between, not knowing which one to do."
On the team's overall performance: "That is what press will do, weigh down the main guy. I don't think we had enough people coming off the bench, until Jerome [Seagears], to help us break the press. I thought we did some other things pretty well. We competed at the rim. We did some really good things in the half court defense and we did a lot of game-planning and executing. I don't think their guards scored. I think we did well on defending Russ Smith, until he got to the free throw line. There were a lot of fouls called. It was a game where you still compete. If you got the foul, you got the foul, that's it, but I thought that was okay for us."
On the team's effort: "It should not have hindered us. It is just you have to guard without fouling. It is just the new rules, you still have to try to get a handle on the guy driving. Going [into the game] we knew they more willing to drive the basketball to rim, as opposed to shooting behind the rim. We play a lot of teams that take threes behind the screen, but their guards like to drive it to the basket. If they miss, then their bigs come and follow. I thought we fouled them, but when we did not foul them I think we did a good job competing in the paint. We got a lot of scores in the first half. Again, that is what they do. They are good. They are good and we are trying to be good."
Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino
Opening statement: "I think we did a very good job of getting back in the game with our press. In the beginning we got behind because we took some bad shots. They got some easy buckets. Then we starting taking good shots and we got a lot of steals because of it."
On Rutgers: "I think they are very physical and play very hard. With the new rules, we all have to get adjusted to moving our feet. I think Eddie Jordan was almost the perfect hire. He is going to do a great job. Not only was he a great player, but a great guy and a great coach. Rutgers will turn around with him at the helm because they will take great pride in the program."
On free throws and Russ Smith: "We usually don't shoot that well. We really don't. Outside of that, Russ (Smith) didn't really play a great game tonight, but he did make free throws and get fouled."
On style of the game: "It was really physical. The only problem I really have - I have to watch the film - is that if you draw an offensive foul with someone barreling into you, you have to get the call. I have no problem with Luke (Hancock) going into a guy, but you have to give the call if the offensive guy plows into the defensive guy if he is not moving. It will be a better game in the long run because of it."
On the press: "It is about taking good shots. You can't press off of a miss. Russ (Smith) is having a great year - one of the best years I've seen - but tonight he had a bad night. He shot us out tonight, which is unlike him, having played unselfish all year."