PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The Rutgers men's basketball team led for most of the game and led by five with five minutes to play. But down the stretch LSU came on like a racehorse for a 55-50 victory Saturday night in a Big East-SEC challenge game.
LSU (5-3) outscored Rutgers 12-2 in the game's final 4:49."This is a shame, a missed opportunity," Rutgers coach Mike Rice said after watching his team fall to 4-4. "To defend that hard, and to follow through on the game plan defensively, it was a shame that we didn't finish it out with more courage and toughness on the offensive end."I don't know if these guys were waiting for Dwight Howard or LeBron James to pop up; it's not gonna happen. These guys have to go make a play. Some of our freshmen turned down wide-open opportunities, and some of our returning players missed grade school layups that you have to finish when you're up five and they're making a run. The way we caved in was very disappointing."Only one Rutgers player scored in double figures and the team grabbed only nine offensive rebounds. They also shot only 33 percent and had seven shots blocked.But they did make 16 steals, limited the Tigers to 3-of-17 shooting from behind the arc and held LSU to its lowest scoring output of the season. LSU was averaging 73 points a game."We didn't play very well at times, but we managed to gut it out and guys stepped up and made some plays," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "We've found ways to win on the road the last two games (59-58 at Houston) versus two good basketball teams, so it's a good win for us."Freshman Eli Carter led Rutgers with 10 points and sophomore Mike Poole had five steals, five rebounds and six points.Rutgers led by five at halftime and the game was tied three times in the second half. LSU got its first lead of the second half at 33-31 and led by a point when Rutgers went up by seven on a 3-pointer by Carter, a fast break basket by Jerome Seagears, a score underneath by Dane Miller and a free throw by Austin Johnson.The Scarlet Knights maintained a five-point lead and were ahead 48-43 when the collapse began.Seven-foot junior Justin Hamilton scored a pair of free throws and then on a layup, and a jumper by freshman guard Anthony Hickey put LSU ahead by a point.Junior Austin Johnson made two free throws with a minute to play, making the score 50-49 Rutgers, and the crowd of 5,534 was rocking.Rutgers had a chance to take the lead with under 40 seconds left, but Carter was called on a charge. LSU responded with a fast break that resulted in a slam by Johnny O'Bryant, and Rutgers failed to get off another shot before the horn."The last three-four minutes was a debacle," Rice said. "We still haven't beaten an opponent that's on-par caliber. Again, we keep blinking; we keep flinching."