Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Rutgers Faces Georgetown in Battle of Struggling Teams
Mike Rice was so thoroughly disgusted with the lack of leadership from Jonathan Mitchell and his other seniors in Tuesday’s 67-53 loss at UConn, he put the walk-ons in during the second half.
“When you do that, it’s that you’re not going to tolerate their lack of intensity, energy or fight,” Rice said on Thursday’s Big East conference call.
“They get that glazed look. At halftime there was just no buzz. We’re facing a Top 10 team and the nation’s best player [Kemba Walker], we’re down five and there wasn’t a buzz, there wasn’t an energy…If that happens I’m not going to stand for it. I’ll let the walk-ons represent us.”
With the Scarlet Knights (10-6, 1-3 Big East) set to host struggling No. 22 Georgetown (12-5, 1-4) Saturday at the RAC (noon, ESPNU), Mitchell knows he’ll have to be more vocal if he’s going to avoid a verbal beatdown from his coach.
“Oh, this is big,” Mitchell said of the game. “This is like life or death. This is Rutgers. We’ve got to turn this thing around.
“Coach Rice isn’t used to losing and we’re trying not to keep it like in the past where we ended up going on losing streaks, so this is a huge game for us.”
Rice came to Rutgers from Robert Morris, where he went 73-31 in three seasons and led the Colonials to two NCAA tournament appearances.
He has made 10 NCAA or NIT appearances as either a head or assistant coach during his 16-year coaching career.
So suffering beatdowns at the hands of UConn and Villanova is not something he’s used to.
“There are positives happening at Rutgers right now but unfortunately we’ve not been very consistent,” Rice said. “In this league you can’t turn it off at times and unfortunately we’ve turned it off many times.”
Rice held Mitchell culpable in the UConn game because he simply stopped being vocal with his younger teammates.
“Obviously, I’ve got to be more vocal being a senior leader,” Mitchell said. “But those other things are in the past and we’re just ready to move on. That game’s over and done with; there’s nothing we can do about it now. But just learn from my mistakes about being as vocal as I should’ve been. I take responsibility for that. There’s no reason why I wasn’t.”
Georgetown has its own set of problems.
After being picked fourth in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Hoyas have dropped three in a row entering a pair of games at Rutgers and Seton Hall (Tuesday) and find themselves near the bottom of the league standings.
Senior guard Chris Wright has been especially enigmatic, averaging 12.6 points while shooting 42 percent from the field and 31 percent from deep.
“No time for us to be basically acting like punks,” Wright said after the Hoyas were drilled, 72-57, by No. 5 Pittsburgh on Wednesday. “We’ve got to step up.”
If Rutgers has any kind of advantage, it’s that associate head coach David Cox left Georgetown for the Scarlet Knights and should know their offense well.
“I watched them against all the tremendous non-conference competition they played and have tremendous respect for them,” Rice said of the Hoyas.
“Everyone in this league goes through hard times and right now they’ve hit a tough spot, and that can happen to you quickly in this league. If we do have one thing going for us it’s that we have a pretty good scout in David Cox, who was their assistant coach for three years. We won’t be surprised with anything.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.