Rutgers Building Confidence

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers came up on the losing end of a tight contest with defending national champion Louisville. Not believing in a moral victory, the Scarlet Knights still found positives in the 83-76 loss Saturday in an energized Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Rutgers basketball inspired some level of hope this week by winning its first American conference game over Temple and scaring defending national champion Louisville before losing a close one.

Rutgers (7-8, 1-1) continues to show improvements from the team that recently lost to the likes of William & Mary and Fairleigh Dickinson, and basketball minds outside of the program are starting to take notice.

"I think Eddie Jordan was almost the perfect hire," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino after an 83-76 win Saturday night. "He is going to do a great job. Not only was he a great player, but a great guy and a great coach. Rutgers will turn around with him at the helm because they will take great pride in the program."

Rutgers led by as many as eight points against Louisville, but took little solace in what ended as the eighth loss of the season.

Now a week between games, Rutgers aims to get healthy and improve the communication issues that led to a significant Louisville advantage against the press.

"I don't think any loss is a step forward," said junior captain Myles Mack, who continues to elevate his game. "Just because they're, I guess, top five or six in the country, we're trying to win."

Rutgers held All-America candidate Russ Smith to what Pitino called his worst performance of the season. The Scarlet Knights also scored unlike most against the Cardinals.

The 76 points – with four players in double figures – is the second most against Louisville all season behind North Carolina.

"It's definitely a confidence builder," said senior Pittsburgh transfer J.J. Moore, who brings NCAA tournament experience to the roster. "We know that we have to go into Cincinnati, taking no days off – go in there and play to our full potential.

"… I think you're starting to see what our younger guys can do, and we're getting more comfortable playing with each other. Most of us had never played together before until this summer, so it' still learning."

Junior college addition Craig Brown took his biggest step forward Saturday, showing why he received rave reviews from the staff this summer. Brown played wing off the bench, and contributed a career-high 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 23 minutes.

"Before the game, the coaches said ‘embrace it,'" Brown said on facing the defending national champions. "That's what I did. I just embraced the game. I didn't think about them being Louisville. I just thought about them being another team."

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