Following Rutgers' latest lop-sided loss, this time a 94-68 throttling against New Jersey-prep led and fourth-ranked Villanova on Wednesday at the RAC, the frustration of a season slipping away got to the Scarlet Knights.
Center Hamady Ndiaye was angry in discussing the most points a Fred Hill-coached team has allowed in Big East play during his four years at Rutgers, and moved to tears when assessing his frustration level after the Scarlet Knights allowed 23 offensive rebounds, and were out-boarded 52-28.
If that wasn't enough, freshman wing Dane Miller said the Scarlet Knights "gave up'' in the second half.
It was hardly what the Scarlet Knights (9-9, 0-6 Big East) expected three weeks ago, before conference play started.
"They were just tougher than us,'' Ndiaye said. "They brought it to a whole different level, and we didn't bring it. We could have been a whole lot tougher with box outs and everything. We didn't bring it as a team, and that's very bad.
"It's all mental. How much heart do you have and how much anger do you have in you to really go out and fight for what you want and not let anybody come in and kind of punk you in your own place? That's one thing that is not acceptable for any team, Rutgers or whoever it is. It's just not acceptable to not be tough on the court.
"Once you step on the court you have to bring everything that you have and we just didn't bring it as a team tonight, and that's very bad for us. It's horrible.''
Miller led Rutgers with 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes, but even an uncharacteristic elongated post-game wait before Hill's press conference was not enough to cool the freshman off.
"I felt like in the second half we played with a little heart, and in the first half we didn't,'' Miller said. "I feel like during the game, we gave up. You can't get better, you can't improve, if you give up on games.''
Rutgers trailed 47-25 at the half, the fourth time in five games the Scarlet Knights faced at least a 17-point deficit at the half, and it didn't get better after the break.
Villanova scored the first seven points out of intermission, and took a 59-27 lead on Corey Stokes' 3-pointer with 16:39 to play.
"At the high school I went to, no matter what, whether the game's a blowout or not, no matter what the score is, you've got to play through until the game is over,'' Miller said. "I felt like we just gave up at the end. It's kind of frustrating, but I wasn't the only one playing hard.
"I felt some other guys like Jonathan Mitchell, Hamady, when he was in the game was playing hard, but I feel we need the whole team to do it.''
Miller added there was a way to begin fixing the process.
"Play with more heart,'' Miller said. "It doesn't matter how talented you are, or how hard you work. This game is all about heart. If you don't have heart, you're not going to win games.''
Rutgers guard Mike Rosario continued his anemic shooting. He was 1 of 8 from the field and finished with two points, and played just eight minutes in the second half.
Villanova was led in scoring by St. Anthony of Jersey City (N.J.) product Dominic Cheek, who scored 17 points. St. Benedict's of Newark (N.J.) alum Corey Stokes added 16 points and St. Patrick's of Elizabeth (N.J.) product Corey Fisher scored 15 points.
"We would like to have them,'' said Hill, a former Villanova assistant. "We recruited them. I wish I didn't do such a good job eight years ago, to be quite honest with you.''