Growing Pains Continue in Loss to SMU

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Valentine's Day became another loss in what continues to be a frustrating first season for Eddie Jordan at Rutgers. The 77-65 loss to No. 23 SMU showed signs of improvement, but not enough to change the result. Playing at Louisville tomorrow and hosting Memphis Thursday, the path does not get any easier for the Scarlet Knights.

Growing pains were always going to be a part of Eddie Jordan's first year at Rutgers. Jordan was honest about that from the day he took the job.

It takes time to get a new system in place – maybe more than one season when you start at rock bottom with half of a roster. But for a team whose motto is "right now," the drop to 10-15 and seventh place in the conference was not an encouraging sign.

"We don't really play for moral wins," said junior captain Kadeem Jack. "We play for the win."

For anyone in need of an encouraging sign, SMU coach Larry Brown is the premiere example. Brown and Jordan come from extensive NBA backgrounds. Brown, who took over SMU last year, was in the same spot as Jordan when he got the job.

SMU (15-17) sat at 3-7 in the Conference USA standings on Valentine's Day of 2013. On Valentine's Day 2014, after major roster changes and a year to install his system, Brown is in charge of the No. 23 team in the country.

"I see improvement in the way we're going, the way we're playing," Jordan said. "It's going to take a little while to understand the system. You look at what they've gone through from last year to this year. They're running Larry's system now. It's crisp. It's disciplined. It's side to side like we want to do."

Rutgers (10-15, 4-8) will likely fall farther in the standings with the two toughest games on the schedule coming in the next five days – at Louisville and home against Memphis. The Scarlet Knights are not going to any post-season tournaments barring a miraculous finish.

With at least seven games left on the schedule, the focus will be on one game at a time, and continuing to learn the system.

"This is college basketball," Jordan said. "This is what you want. You want to come in here and play and you want to practice and go play one of the best teams in the country. We had three games like that, so this is where we have to test our mettle and test our mettle as far as what our personality is going to be, how we're going to move forward with this program and they showed a good sign tonight, showed some positive signs tonight."

The positive signs, however, continue to show. Jordan sees them, and other coaches do as well.

"I think Eddie [Jordan] is a genius offensively, the way he spreads you out and he moves people around," Brown said. "If you are not on your A game defensively, you will get hurt. They will find a way to hurt you."

Captains Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack stuck with their Rutgers commitments when the door was open to leave last year. The junior duo brings the most consistent production to the court, and is the brightest sign for Jordan heading into the Big Ten and his second season.

"We've just got to buy into what coach is saying," Mack said. "They're buying into what coach Larry Brown is saying so we've just got to buy into what our coach is saying and execute."

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