Sophomore Myles Mack will not let Rutgers go down without a fight. Missing their leading scorer for the rest of the season, the Scarlet Knights gave Villanova a scare, but did not have enough down the stretch to close out a victory.
Failing to finish strong yet again, The close losses keep piling up for Rutgers.
Blowing a 10-point halftime lead in a 71-63 loss to Villanova, Rutgers now has eight losses in its last nine games.
“You knew that they were going to make adjustments and up the intensity and we didn’t have a very good response for those five or six minutes we didn’t make them earn baskets,” said head coach Mike Rice on the WCTC postgame show. “It’s a recurring theme. It’s just a lack of toughness, a lack of response.”
Mack carried Rutgers to an explosive first half by scoring 12 straight points in one stretch and finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds.
“If I had Myles’ heart in all of my players, I think we’d be undefeated,” Rice said. “… He had a courageous performance and that was back-to-back [after DePaul].”
Sophomore Kadeem Jack supplemented Mack with Rutgers trying to replace Elijah Carter’s 15 points per game. Jack scored 12 against Villanova, including a highlight slam dunk.
Rutgers built its biggest halftime lead, 10 points, in six weeks of action. Rutgers also dominated defensively in the first half, giving up just six field goals.
But with Mack and Jerome Seagears both pushing 40 minutes, the perimeter defense broke down in the second half and allowed Villanova to be the better closer. The sharpshooting of Darrun Hilliard, Ryan Arcidiacono and James Bell proved too much and served as the backbreaker during a 15-4 run to take the lead.
Rutgers (13-12, 4-10) gets some time to rest and regroup before hosting Providence Saturday night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.