Rutgers gave undefeated Mississippi a strong push in the Big East/SEC Challenge, but fell apart late to lose its second game of the season, 80-67 in Oxford, Miss.
The Scarlet Knights struggled to stop the Rebels in the paint late and lost despite leading by eight points late in the first half.
“We blinked,” coach Mike Rice said to WCTC in his post-game interview. “… You can’t blink against a team that throws the amount of haymakers [they do]. … We blinked in a lot of situations whether it was rebounding, free throw block outs, execution.”
The experience of Mississippi took over in the final five minutes to separate from Rutgers.
After a thunderous dunk by forward Wally Judge tied the game at 55, Rutgers could no longer contain the Rebels and gave up a 14-2 run to lose the game.
While on a run, Mississippi shot 72 percent from the floor and drew four fouls on Rutgers. Inside experience made the difference late for Mississippi, which received a combined 31 points and 26 boards from Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, who both finished with double doubles.
Rutgers (4-2) gave Ole Miss (6-0) a tough run and led for the first 35 minutes of the game behind a team-high 15 points from Myles Mack. Dane Miller contributed his most aggressive game of the year and finished with 14 points, making all seven of his field goals.
Fouls became an issue down the stretch with forwards Kadeem Jack and Malick Kone both fouling out. Sophomore Elijah Carter scored 10 points, but was an ugly 1-of-12 from the floor.
“I liked 75 percent of what I saw tonight,” Rice said. “There was some fight, especially in a hostile environment against a quality opponent like these guys. … We’re making the same mistakes too many times, and, again, good teams don’t do that.”
The Scarlet Knights return to action Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden against Iona.