Rutgers will not be making a regular-season appearance at Madison Square Garden this season, eliminated by Drexel in the second round of the NIT. In a 70-59 loss on their home court, the Scarlet Knights fell victim to a 9-0 run in the second half that put the Dragons too far ahead for a comeback.
Instead of two primetime holiday games at the Garden, Rutgers (3-2) will spend the week working out turnover and foul issues that gave Drexel the victory Tuesday night.
“It’s definitely a disappointment,” said senior J.J. Moore. “We were talking about this all week. Going out there and showing how bad we were, it wasn’t a good look. We’re just going to go back and practice and try to fight back from this loss.”
Rutgers pushed the Dragons (3-1) by cutting the lead to two points at the eight-minute mark in the second half before the start of a 9-0 run.
Free throws and fouls put Rutgers out of reach in a losing effort. Leaving eight points off the final score with missed free throws, Rutgers committed 23 fouls and 14 turnovers despite the second best defensive performance of the season.
“We’re trying to learn how to play physically with some poise,” said coach Eddie Jordan. “It was a very physical game. It was very emotional for a few stretches there. They kept running their system. They kept coming at us. We have to learn to do the same thing.”
Junior forward Kadeem Jack led Rutgers with 13 points and 10 rebounds for a second straight double-double. Moore had no problem taking shots, but missed some bad looks on a 3-for-13 night and finished with 10 points.
“They just beat us up on the offensive and defensive end,” Moore said. “We just tried to match it, and it wasn’t working. They out-toughed us today.”
The Scarlet Knights will be a host in the consolation bracket of the preseason NIT, with the visiting teams to be determined. Likely candidates include Farleigh Dickinson, Metro State, Stillman College.