For much of Steve Pikiell's first year on the job at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights have clawed and competed their way to tightly contested battles.
That wasn’t the case, however, Tuesday night at the RAC when Maryland routed Rutgers by a final score of 79-59.
With days to prepare until Saturday when the Scarlet Knights (13-17, 2-15) face Illinois for Senior Day at the RAC, how does Pikiell expect his team to respond?
“Like we’ve responded all year,” he said. “I want them to come and play Rutgers basketball. I don’t care what the score is, I want them to play the right way and I want them to play hungry. They did for a half, but it’s not good enough when you play Maryland.”
Pikiell referred to the second half where the Terps (23-7, 11-6) trounced Rutgers in the second half with a lopsided 47-31 margin to show for it.
The 83-63 home loss to Iowa marks the last time Rutgers suffered a blowout loss at the RAC. Pikiell sent a message after the game when walk-on Jake Dadika was the only player made available to the media. He made an similar move after the Maryland in his non-player postgame.
“When they play hard, they’ll be sitting up here,” Pikiell said. “They can talk to you guys. They like talking anyway. I like us doing our talking on the court.”
Rutgers responded from the Iowa rout with a gutsy 70-68 win at Penn State, which doubled as the first Big Ten road victory in three years.
With the regular-season finale against the Fighting Illini (17-12, 7-9) up next, Rutgers looks to respond once more.
“I thought we had good practices,” Pikiell said. “I thought we came out with some good energy to start the game. I knew we were playing an elite team that was hungry and that was desperate to win this game. We had to match that for 40 minutes, but we weren’t able to do that. We don’t have a margin for error.
“Every play is important to us — every three, every call, everything’s important to us. … (Maryland was) the hungrier team, and that’s the most disappointing part of it.”