Nebraska had no answers for Rutgers on Saturday afternoon as the Scarlet Knights blew out Nebraska 93-65 at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway.
Rutgers was averaging 68.6 points and was 250th in the country in effective field goal percentage heading into the game. Against the Huskers, they hit a new season-high in points before the five-minute mark, shot 58.3% from the field including 55.6% from 3 and recorded 23 assists on 35 field goals.
“We’ve got to learn from it,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said about the loss on his postgame radio interview. “I don’t know, we showed so much fight in those last few games, even the resiliency that we showed when adversity hit us, getting down eight and fighting all the way back against Ohio State. We had the late lead and couldn’t, obviously, hold it off. And then Michigan State even, I thought our resiliency was good, we just had a three- or four-minute stretch where they took control of it.
“But tonight, it’s so disappointing to have that lack of competitiveness when things get difficult out there on the court … I hate it. I hate it for our fans. I hate it for the people that care. We’ve got to find a way to compete and be better. At least the last couple games, you walk in a locker room and I thought we played harder than the other team. Tonight it just wasn’t the same.”
Rutgers star Ron Harper Jr. led five Scarlet Knights in double figures with 29 points on 8-of-13 from the field (3-of-6 from 3) and 10-of-10 a the free-throw line. Sophomore reserve big man Dean Reiber matched his season total with 10 points including the first two 3-pointers of his career.
Bryce McGowens led Nebraska with 17 points on 5-of-9 from the field (1-of-2 from 3) and 6-of-6 from the foul line. Derrick Walker added 12 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes after dealign with significant foul trouble in the first half. C.J. Wilcher chipped in 11 points off the bench on 4-of-6 from the field (2-of-4 from 3) and 1-of-2 from the line.
The Huskers (6-10, 0-5 Big Ten) shot 49.1% from the field including 6-of-18 from 3 and 7-of-12 from the foul line while finishing with 12 assists and 14 turnovers.
“You get your ass kicked by 30, it doesn’t matter what you do on [the offensive] end,” Hoiberg said. “We were a mess on the other end. I thought we separated, really, on both ends to be honest with you. On the defensive end, it was five individuals playing out there after being really good against Ohio State, especially with the game plan, taking away the paint, and Michigan State as well. But tonight when things got tough out there we just we just flat-out folded and that can’t happen.”
Nebraska got off to another great offensive start, scoring on five of its first seven possessions and ripping off a 7-0 run to take an 11-6 lead early. Alonzo Verge Jr. capped the run with a steal and transition alley-oop to Lat Mayen.
Just like the Michigan State game, however, the Huskers cooled off a bit and the Scarlet Knights chipped away at the lead until they managed to tie it up at 14-14. The starting centers for each team both picked up two fouls before the under-12 media timeout.
Eduardo Andre stepped in for Walker and gave the Huskers the lead again at 16-14 with his second bucket in the post, but the Huskers went ice cold after that. The Scarlet Knights put together an 11-0 run as the Huskers went nearly four minutes between buckets.
Kobe Webster ended the run with a mid-range pull-up then found Walker, who checked back in with his two fouls, under the basket for a layup. A pair of fee throws by McGowens pulled the Huskers within three.
After trading scores, things fell apart for Nebraska again as both Mayen and Walker picked up their third fouls during a 9-0 Rutgers run that featured three turnovers and a bad shot from Verge.
The Scarlet Knights pushed their lead to 14 before a Keisei Tominaga 3, but Rutgers closed out the half with a buzzer-beating dunk from Reiber to take a 44-31 lead.
Nebraska shot 50% from the fled but just 2-of-10 from 3 with eight turnovers. McGowens was the only Husker with more than four points, scoring 11 on 4-of-6 shooting including one of Nebraska’s two 3s.
Rutgers only shot 2-of-8 from 3 and had seven turnovers, but the Scarlet Knights shot 51.6% overall with 28 points in the paint and went 10-for-11 at the foul line.
The break didn’t do Nebraska any good as the defensive breakdowns continued. A personal 8-0 run from Harper including two triples pushed the lead to 20 before Wilcher knocked down a 3 of his own.
The Scarlet Knights scored on 12 of their first 17 possessions with four 3s to extend the lead to 21 despite the Huskers scoring at an efficient clip on their own end. Rutgers continued to roll the rest of the way with the lead peaking at 30.
“They went on the run, pushed it from three up to 13 before half, and then second half they come out and hit 10 out of 14 shots and we just folded,” Hoiberg said. “You’ve got to have some semblance of mental toughness if you’re going to compete at this level. We did not have that at all tonight. Mental, physical, they just manhandled us physically and that’s what happens when you have that combination.”
Rutgers shot 65.5% from the field in the second half including a blistering 8-of-10 from 3.
The Huskers will be back at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday to host Illinois, led by the Big Ten’s third-leading scorer in Kofi Cockburn.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.