Rutgers Men's Basketball
(Photo courtesy Rutgers Athletics)

Rutgers get dealt taste of their own medicine vs. Maryland

Heading into Sunday's game, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (14-13) were on the back end of a two-game losing streak. Rutgers looked forward to securing victory over a similarly built and talented Maryland Terrapins (15-13), but that didn't go as planned. Instead, the Scarlet Knights fell to the Terrapins at home, 63-46

Before the game, the arena was filled with joy and high hopes as many expected the Scarlet Knights to snap their losing streak and begin gaining momentum with the NCAA Tournament rapidly approaching. As the game progressed, it was highly competitive and entertaining; however, it was low-scoring. Both teams have the country's top defenses, which was fully displayed in Piscataway. 

“There was a great crowd today,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said. “Maryland was better than us in every area and we didn't have the energy in the first half. … I give credit to Kevin Willard, they got in the lane and we didn't do what we needed to do. I thought our inability to make a free throw in the first half would've let us hang around and stay closer but I got to get us to play better and it's obviously on me.”

Where Did the Scarlet Knights Go Wrong?

Early in the game, the Scarlet Knights struggled to get rebounds, giving the Terrapins multiple second-chance opportunities. This also forced the Scarlet Knights not to control their possessions and dominate the ball offensively. Pikiell explained that he attempted to go with a smaller lineup because he enjoyed how that second group's energy helped build momentum and how the offense flowed more effectively. Unfortunately, in doing so, he sacrificed his team's size in the paint, leaving multiple opportunities for the Terrapins to dominate the boards and time of possession.

“We had a group in the end that played with great energy and got us to claw back, but we needed everything to go our way, especially after spotting them,” Pikiell explains. There was one breakaway layup that we didn't convert while down ten. They are one of the best teams defensively, we just never got into a rhythm."The Terrapins' offense wasn't super effective; however, they hit tough shots without being affected by the turnovers. The Scarlet Knights' offensive struggles continue and are a cause for concern down the season's stretch. Unlike the Wisconsin game, the Knights couldn't shoot from beyond the arch to make up for the overall shooting day. The Scarlet Knights were forced to deal with the Terrapins' 1-3-1 zone, which gave them deep trouble.

The Terrapins' offense wasn't super effective; however, they hit tough shots without being affected by the turnovers. The Scarlet Knights' offensive struggles continue and are a cause for concern down the season's stretch. Unlike the Wisconsin game, the Knights couldn't shoot from beyond the arch to make up for the overall shooting day. The Scarlet Knights were forced to deal with the Terrapins' 1-3-1 zone, which gave them deep trouble.

"They (Maryland) are a really good defensive team first and foremost,” Pikiell continues.  That's how they've built their identity too. They did a great job being active and doing some different things. They throw a lot of different stuff at you. They have some full-court stuff. They're a lot like us. We throw a lot of different things at you so it keeps you off rhythm.”

“When you're searching for answers and you're subbing guys in it's a little bit different. I believe in the first half the free throw line is your best asset in tough scoring times. You need to go there especially when you are struggling to make shots. That's a big part of it. I haven't been able to get us to shoot free throws the way that we need to. On the road we are very good from the free throw line, I don't know why here at home we are too successful. That needs to change especially in a game like this. When we are making threes like we did against Wisconsin it's not as glaring. When you struggle to score you want to get to the free throw line. We need to do a better job.”

What’s Next for Rutgers?

On Thursday night, the Scarlet Knights will take on the Michigan Wolverines (8-20). The Wolverines are currently the worst team in the Big Ten, therefore this can be an opportunity to gather some momentum and gain an easy win at home.

“We have a lot of basketball left and I need us to get consistent down the stretch," said Pikiell.