Rutgers (8-9 overall, 0-4 Big East) shot 8-28 in the first half and finished 16-51 from the field for the game for a mere 31.4 percent in their 64-49 loss to Louisville (12-4 overall, 2-1 Big East) on Sunday at the RAC.
"A lot of teams struggle with Rutgers early because they get you into foul trouble and beat you off the dribble," Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino said. "We wanted to press them and make them take jump shots. [Junior forward Terrence] Williams and [Senior forward Juan] Palacios were difference makers for us today."
Head Coach Fred Hill was proud of his team's effort on the defensive end and didn't question their intensity, but said it all comes down to getting the clutch baskets.
"I can't ask anymore of my kids on the defensive end," Hill said. "All of our guys bring great energy and passion. It boils down to one simple thing on offense. We have to get easy shots and make those shots, it's really that simple."
After struggling in the first half shooting 33.3 percent in the first half, Louisville shot over 50 percent in the second half to finish 22-53 (41.5 percent) for the game.
Sophomore center Hamady Ndiaye had himself another challenge down at the low block with sophomore forward Derrick Caracter who came in averaging 22.6 points per game and 7.1 rebounds.
"H just gets better each and every game," Hill said. "He makes every single kid that comes in here work for his numbers.
Junior forward Jaron Griffin was the one shining light for the Scarlet Knights offensively as he led all scorers with a career high 23 points. Junior forward J.R. Inman had 11 points off the bench shooting 5-13.
"We need three guys to score and today it was Griff and J.R.," Hill said. "Your not going to win many games with two guys scoring. We need that third guy to step up and have everyone else play solid."
Griffin, who went 6-13 from the field including 4-5 from three point range, kept Rutgers in the game early in the second half when Lousiville was about to pull away. Down 34-24, Griffin scored 10 of the Knights next 12 points to tie up the score at 36.
"I was just shooting it and not thinking about it," Griffin said. "Usually when I miss, I start to think about it, but not today."
With just over three minutes left in the game, Inman would cut the Cardinals lead to six with a jumper and it would be after that when the game just slipped away. Palacios would kill any hopes of a Knights comeback. Sophomore New York native, Edgar Sosa, would miss the first shot of a one and one and Palacios picked up the loose ball off the miss and would eventually hit a lay up and get fouled.
"There's four NBA players and a hall of fame coach over there and the score is 51-45 with 3:07 left," Hill said. "We don't have a margin for error, it's one little mistake that separates the game. If we box out, we get the ball with under three minutes to go."
Palacios then completed the three point play and sucked the momentum out of the building. He would then hit another three and Sosa would add another two on a lay up off a steal.
Palacios would come down court and make a three followed by Sosa hitting a lay up off a steal to increase the lead to 14.
"There's a fine line between winning and losing and sometimes you don't realize your at that line," Hill said. "It's very hard and I told the kids it's not easy when you don't get rewarded for all the good things your doing and that reward is winning. When you don't win it's really tough."
Rutgers next game will be on Jan. 16 at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse at 7 p.m.
Griffin said that the effort is there and that once everything clicks, this team can turn it around.
"With Farmer out, we have to play good as a team," Griffin said. "Once we do that the sky is the limit for us. I feel good about this team. The record doesn't show it, but I feel good about them.
-Junior guard Anthony Farmer only played 11 minutes on Sunday because of a virus and was given an IV before the game because he was feeling weak.
-Red shirt junior Courtney Nelson only played two minutes because he has been taking a winter class. Coach Hill said he has had to miss practice because this class is important so he hasn't been feeling comfortable on the court due to the limited practice time.