PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Junior forward Kadeem Jack (Queens, N.Y.) had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead three players in double figures, but it was not enough as Rutgers (8-12, 2-5) dropped a 82-71 decision to Connecticut (16-4, 4-3) Saturday night before a sold-out RAC.
Jack shot 4-of-9 from the floor, made 11-of-14 free throws, and issued four blocks. He was joined in double figures by junior guard Jerome Seagears (Silver Springs, Md.) and freshman forward Junior Etou (Republic of Congo). Seagears contributed 17 points and six assists off the bench, while Etou pitched in 10 points.
After trailing by as much as nine in the opening minutes, Rutgers cut the Huskies’ lead to just two thanks to junior guard/forward Craig Brown (Miami, Fla.). Brown’s driving layup with 7:14 remaining in the first half made it 26-24 in favor of Connecticut. Both teams traded baskets until halftime before UConn entered the locker room at the midpoint with a 41-36 lead.
The Scarlet Knights shot 48 percent in the opening 20 minutes and were paced by Etou, who scored all 10 of his points in the first half, including two three pointers on 4-of-5 shooting. Seagears also had two first half three-pointers to spark the home squad.
Rutgers started hot in the second half. The Knights drained two three-pointers out of the gate, including a Seagears’ swish from behind the arc which gave RU a 42-41 advantage with 18:42 remaining. The Scarlet Knights connected on four three-pointers in the second half and eight overall, good for a 44 percent three-point percentage.
After capturing the lead, however, the Huskies controlled the remainder of the contest. Connecticut was led by guard Shabazz Napier, who scored 20 of his game-high 26 points in the second half. Napier shot 7-of-18 from the floor, dished out four assists and force three steals. He was joined in double figures for UConn by guard Ryan Boatright and center Amida Brimah, who scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Both teams performed well at the charity stripe. Rutgers shot 84 percent (21-of-25), while UConn deposited 80 percent (24-of-30) of its free throws.
Rutgers returns to action Wednesday (Jan. 29) at Temple. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and the contest will be televised live on ESPNews. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Owls, 71-66, in their first meeting of the season on Jan. 1 at the RAC.
- Junior forward Kadeem Jack posted 19 points, tied for the team high, his 21st double-digit scoring game of his career and 16th this season.
- Jack grabbed 11 rebounds, giving him his fifth career double-double and fourth this season.
- Junior guard Jerome Seagears matched Jack with 19 points, the 22nd double-digit scoring game of his career and sixth this season.
- Freshman forward Junior Etou made a career-high two 3-pointers. His previous best was one, which he did twice (last vs. UCF on Jan. 15).
- Etou finished with 10 points, his third double-figure scoring game of his career.
- Jack posted four blocks in the contest, his sixth multi-block game of the season and 14th of his career.
- Now with 63 career blocks, Jack moves into 20th on RU’s all-time list. He trails Adrian Hill (2002-07), who is in 19th with 65.
- Jack totaled a career high with 11 made free throws. His previous best was six, which he did twice, with the last vs. Louisville (Jan. 4). He also had a career-high 14 free throw attempts. His previous high was 14 at Cincinnati (Jan. 11).
- Junior guard Myles Mack scored six points, moving him into 34th in RU’s career-points column with 1,055. He passed Mike Rosario (2008-10), who had 1,051. He is one point shy of No. 33 Damon Santiago (1991-93, 94-96).
- Rutgers is now 14-36 all-time against UConn.
- 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 eighth-straight game.
Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan
Opening statement: “This is one of those nights where we had to almost play a perfect game. They’re a good team with a great player, and when a great player opens the floor up like that and a great player does his thing, it’s very frustrating and the frustration got to us a little bit. We didn’t keep our poise, the same story that, when the skirmish of the game, when it’s a five, six point swing and you get stops, you have to take over the game somehow and we haven’t learned how to do that. Except for maybe two games, Temple and another game, I can’t remember, UCF maybe.”
On Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier: “They opened the floor up. It’s NBA like. Kevin Ollie is a young coach but he’s very good, very experienced. He’s been around. If you have a great player like that, you open the floor up and let him do his thing. When he’s got it cooking, it’s a hard thing to guard because he’s a good passer, he sees the floor, he’s unselfish yet he’s an assassin. We did a good job, because they run pick and rolls, we were able to run another guy at him, so we sort of trapped him at various times which is good for us. But he didn’t run any more pick and rolls, there was just open floor.”
On wondering how many times his team could answer in the game: “I liked that, but we didn’t get over the hump to take control of the game, to take the lead and take control on the offense, put a little pressure on them as far as they had to answer. Again, It’s the same story for us and we’ve been tinkering or teetering on that part of the game where we just, we’re there, we’re there. We might not be playing well, but we’re right there, it’s a four-point game whether it’s at Cincinnati, whether it’s at SMU, we’re right there and we don’t make the couple plays we need to take over the game. Just couldn’t sustain it. They opened the floor and Napier’s a good player. Very good player.”
On the play of Kadeem Jack: “I commended Kadeem. The first thing I said. Kadeem played very well. He played some center because Wally was in foul trouble, so we got Kadeem playing a lot of minutes at two positions, the center position and the forward, but it wasn’t necessarily his position, he just willed his way to get some offensive rebounds, some put backs, drives to the basket, got to the free-throw line, so you just have to keep doing it Kadeem. You just can’t do it once every five, six, seven games.”
On the play of Jerome Seagears off the bench: “What Jerome does, it allows Myles to not be so point guardish like, because J.J. doesn’t really initiate the offense although he’s getting better. But it allows Myles to not have to organize us as much as he has to when J.J. is on the floor. Jerome comes in, organizes the offense in the half court and pushes it so Myles can get off the ball a little bit because J.J. doesn’t push. So it allows Myles to be free off the ball to catch and attack, so that’s what Jerome does. He made some three’s early, which helped us, and again, we have to get him to play a little more efficiently too.”
UConn head coach Kevin Ollie
Opening statement: "Tonight's game was a great game. Everyone that played, especially in the second half, was remarkable. The defense holding them to 32 percent changed the game. We were also able to out-rebound a team again. I thought Shabazz (Napier) was pretty amazing scoring 20 points in the second half. But it took a great team effort: Ryan (Boatright) got a big offensive rebound, Terrence (Samuel) made a wonderful three-point play when their was some turbulence on the plane to settle us down. Also, Amida (Brimah) played great down low and when you look at the stat sheet, Phil (Nolan) is not going to have a lot of numbers, but his defense was great. As a coach, anytime you look at the statsheet and see points in the paint at 34-12, you know the team played aggressive, assertive and out-willed the opponent. I think that's what we did tonight. Rutgers is getting this thing turned around. I have so much admiration for coach Eddie Jordan. He (an) unbelievable (coach) and I know he's going to do a great job. I wish him the best of luck. This might be the last time we play at the RAC and it was good to come out with a win."
On DeAndre Daniels returning after injury: "I was very surprised since it was a high-ankle sprain. Anyone who played basketball or any sport knows that the high-ankle sprain is very painful. It is one of the severest ones you can have. That's the toughness everyone needs to see. He gutted it out."
On playing on the road: "It was a tough environment out there tonight. It was the "blackout night." I told the guys we had our "blue-out night" and it wasn't successful, so let's try to spoil someone else's night. I think we did that, but I was so proud of the toughness that we showed. Sometimes I say we have to play tougher, but tonight we did that. It was a great win in a hostile environment and I am very proud of this team."
On playing against Myles Mack: "We were trying to blitz the pick-and-roll. We usually blue the pick-and-roll, but we knew that if we gave him space he would knock down a shot. He is a key to a lot of their runs and can getting it going from the three-point line, and sometimes way behind the line. We wanted to make it tough on him."
On Shabazz Napier: "I put the ball in his hands in different situations. He drives me crazy sometimes, but I can count on him to make the plays. I know he'll make mistakes at times, but I know he is going to be there rock-solid when I need him the most. That second half was up there with a lot of the great second halves that some of our players have had. We just want to put the ball in his hands and let him make plays."