Rice Apologizes After Loss to Louisville

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- It was not a good night for Rutgers, so much so coach Mike Rice apologized to the fans after No. 16 Louisville beat the Scarlet Knights 55-37 at the Rutgers Athletic Center. The Scarlet Knights shot 29.5 percent from the field and showed very little fight.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The close losses and lack of depth manifested itself in so many ways it is takes cyberspace to document it all.

Passes going through hands, dribbles without purpose, lack of closing out, poor transition defense, tentative play near the basket …and on and on and on.

Rutgers had plenty of exciting, if not painful, finishes this season, but never did it have a start like Tuesday's lackluster 55-37 loss to No. 16 Louisville in front of 5,633 at the Rutgers Athletic Center, in the process scoring its fewest points in four years.

The Cardinals (21-7, 10-5 Big East) scored 20 of the game's first 23 points, led by as many as 19 in the first half and maintained a double-digit lead all but two possessions of the final 32 minutes.

And Louisville wasn't even playing well.

"I should be out in the parking lot right now apologizing," Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. "It's as simple as that. We have sad individuals on our team. It's the first time all year that guys were sad something was going wrong.

"So, I told them, ‘Great season. You tried your hardest, and good luck (to) the seniors.' I know we have three games left, but if that's the performance we're going to do, we'll pack it in."

Last week Rice said the Scarlet Knights would not accept a postseason invitation to a tournament unless they were above .500.

Now, for the first time since the season opener, Rutgers (13-14, 4-11) is below .500, and will need to win its final three games – West Virginia and at DePaul and at Providence – to ensure a winning record sans a long run in the Big East tournament.

"(Rice) told us it's not us, it's not the way we play, and we're never going to win games the way we played," Rutgers senior guard Mike Coburn said.

It was ugly for the Scarlet Knights from so many levels.

Rutgers was 13 of 44 (29.5 percent) from the field, which included making 2 of 14 from 3-point range.

The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over 18 times, and player after player caught the wrath of Rice for lack of hustle, lack of smarts and general malaise in scoring their fewest points since losing to DePaul 60-37 in January 2007.

Rutgers freshman Gilvydas Biruta had a team-high 12 points and James Beatty was next with six. Louisville was led by Preston Knowles' 14 points and Kyle Kuric's 11.

"They came in here and from the jump, it was an old-fashioned butt-whipping," Rutgers senior forward Jonathan Mitchell said. "I just feel like it was too many individuals tying to make plays and not doing what we have been doing to be successful."

The Scarlet Knights had two points in the first nine minutes, and managed five points in the final six minutes of the game.

"It was an incredible performance," Rice said. "You can't have Gil give heart to every one of our players, but he tried. There were so many bad performances by so many individuals, including your head coach."

In building a 14-point halftime lead, Louisville was left with open 3-point attempt time and again, making 7 of 16 shots from behind the arc.

The lone Rutgers run came midway through the second half as Louisville's dry spell from the field allowed the Scarlet Knights to pull within 39-30 with 9:37 left.

However, the Cardinals regrouped, taking advantage of Rutgers' missed open shot after open shot to push back to a 50-32 advantage with 5:23 remaining.

It begs the question of whether Rutgers, with its nine healthy scholarship players and having played so many close games this season, is out of gas.

"No question," Rice said. "And I never thought that possible, but what am I going to say? Lie to you?"

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