Rutgers fell to Maryland 68-59 at the RAC on Sunday afternoon. It was Rutgers’ second straight loss, and third in their last four games. It seems like Rutgers’ entire season has just been a downward trend at times. They got off to a hot 7-1 start before losing their next five games. After rattling off four consecutive wins to improve to 11-6, the Scarlet Knights now sit at just 12-10 with three games remaining before the Big Ten tournament.
Harper jr.’s struggles
Ron Harper jr. was looking like a Player of the Year candidate at the beginning of the season, averaging 23.4 points in his first seven games. He’s averaged just 11.2 in the 13 contests since. The main issue has been how ice cold Harper has gone from three. Over a six game stretch, the junior had four games with five threes, and another with four. Fast forward to now, and Harper has hit just four threes in his last ten games. The change directly coincides with an ankle injury that caused Harper to miss the Purdue game in late December. We can only hope the Scarlet Knights’ leading scorer finds his touch from beyond the arc sooner rather than later.
Harper isn’t the only player who’s play hasn’t been up to their usual standards as of late. The likes of Geo Baker and Montez Mathis just have not seemed themselves lately, in addition to others. Nobody has stepped up to shoulder the scoring load. These guys are all veteran players who have come up big time and time again for Rutgers the past few years. That’s what makes it so strange to see them struggle this way.
Trapezoid of terror no more
Maryland is by no means a bad team, but they’re a team Rutgers handled easily on the road in December. It just seemed that every time the Scarlet Knights began to cut into the lead, the Terrapins had an answer. Rutgers refused to lose last season at the RAC, dropping just one contest at home. Any time their opponent gave them a chance to get back into a game, it seemed like the Scarlet Knights could feed off the crowd’s energy and will themselves to a win. That’s not happening without fans in the stands – Rutgers has now lost four games in Piscataway this season. I think back to a year ago, and I was in the stands as the RAC crowd absolutely lost their minds watching Rutgers beat #9 Maryland. Damn you, covid.
So how hard am I pressing the panic button?
All of that being said, I’m not completely giving up on this Rutgers team. Like I mentioned before, this team is full of veteran players who have come up big before. Would I be surprised if in a couple weeks, we see Harper jr. hit five threes in a Big Ten tournament game, or Baker drill a step-back for the win? Not one bit. But it’s at the point where I’m less convinced that it’s a matter of “when” this Rutgers team will flip the switch, but “if.”