Rutgers Blows 13-point Lead in Loss to Friars

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Rutgers could have crept closer to an NIT berth, and had a 13-point second-half lead on the road. Instead, Providence came back and won 75-74 when senior Mike Coburn missed the second of two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining at the Dunkin Donuts Center. The Friars took the lead when Marshon Brooks banged in a runner with 11.6 seconds remaining.

Providence, R.I. – Given a chance to make program history, to stake a claim for an NIT berth and head into the Big East tournament with plenty of momentum, Rutgers instead will be forced to pick up the pieces after another close loss.

But, for the first time in a season of close losses, it was also a bad one.

The Scarlet Knights blew a 13-point in the last 12 minutes, and senior Mike Coburn missed a potential game-tying free throw with 1.8 seconds remaining and fell to Providence 75-74 in front of 9,088 Saturday at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

"We got in our own way," Rutgers senior power forward Jonathan Mitchell said. "We were in control the whole way and we gave it away at the end."

The loss deprived Rutgers (14-16, 5-13 Big East) of several things, the most important was a .500 record and a possible strong finish which could have impressed the NIT folks had the Scarlet Knights beaten Seton Hall in the first round of Big East tournament.

It also kept Rutgers from winning back-to-back road conference road games for the first time since 2000, and give the Scarlet Knights wins in Big East games played consecutively on the road for the first time in school history.

"This one hurts the most, probably," said Rutgers freshman center Gilvydas Biruta, who scored a career-high 21 points. "It's the last game of the regular season."

The biggest moments came at the end, when Marshon Brooks (28 points to set a single-season Big East only games scoring record of 468) banked in a runner from the lane with 11.6 seconds left to give Providence a 75-73 lead. It was its first lead since early in the first half.

The next came when Coburn missed the second of two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining to allow the Friars to end a seven-game losing streak.

Before then, though, there were plenty of problems for a Rutgers team that lost despite shooting 59.6 percent from the field, including 62.5 percent in the second half.

"There's so many losing plays, and our guys didn't seem to be affected by it," Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. "They were shooting the ball well, they were scoring, so it was fun for them, but that's the way losers play. They don't defend."

While Brooks was forcing shots en route to shooting 8 of 18 from the field, Rutgers was committing silly, unnecessary fouls.

Whether it was Austin Carroll's intentional foul trying to stop Brooks on a breakaway, or fouling Vincent Council on jump shots, Rutgers allowed the Friars (15-16, 4-14) to chip away.

"We started making losing plays," Rice said. "A losing ballclub makes losing plays. Whether it's not closing out, whether it's not taking care of the ball, whether it's not executing, whether it's fouling a jump shooter.

"We found ways to make losing plays, so we're losers. We didn't get to .500. That's what happened in the second half."

Not even Biruta's 9 of 13 shooting was enough to satisfy Rice, who didn't like the fact Biruta also missed several lay-ups and had a ball pinned between the backboard and rim in the closing minutes, giving the ball to the Friars.

"We didn't stay down on shot fakes, and they made their fouls shots," Biruta said. "We shouldn't have fouled them …and defensive rebounds and a couple turnovers at the end. That was it."

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