The Rutgers men’s basketball team lost to Lafayette 53-51 today. The game was the Scarlet Knights’ (3-2, 0-0) fifth non-conference game of the season and leaves the team with two more such games until its first Big Ten matchup.
Similar to all of Rutgers’ games so far this season, the game was tight throughout the first half. While the Knights possessed a 29-23 lead with a minute remaining in the half, the Leopards (1-4, 0-0) scored 5 points in the last minute to shrink the lead down to 1 point entering the break.
The second half saw Lafayette hold a lead for a majority of the half, reaching a lead as high as 7 on a three-pointer with just less than 13 minutes remaining.
Rutgers would battle back into the game from that point forward, eventually retaking the lead on a dunk from sophomore center Clifford Omoruyi with 6 minutes to go. Omouryi finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds, both team-highs.
The Knights’ next made field goal would come nearly 6 minutes later in the final minute of the game. With 30 seconds remaining, senior guard Ron Harper Jr. buried his second three-pointer of the night to give the team a 1-point lead.
Harper Jr.’s go-ahead shot left the Leopards with one more possession to try and take back the lead and win the game. They would do just that on a last-second go-ahead three-pointer from Kyle Jenkins. Jenkins’ shot left Rutgers with not enough time to get off a quality shot before the buzzer sounded.
“I’m going to give Lafayette credit. When they needed to make a big play down the stretch, they made that big shot,” said head coach Steve Pikiell after the game. “We obviously have to play much better … We have to figure out a way to keep improving.”
Just behind Omoruyi in scoring was Harper, who finished his evening with 13 points, four rebounds and a team-high five assists. Harper also had three steals, tying the team-high with junior guard Paul Mulcahy who had 10 points and six rebounds of his own.
The loss was compounded by injuries suffered to key rotational players. Senior guard Geo Baker left the floor with an apparent hamstring injury and did not return to the game. Sophomore forward Mawot Mag also suffered a lower-body injury in the second half.
“I mean (Baker) couldn’t play, and (the athletic trainers) came as soon as he checked out and said he was done,” Pikiell said. “That’s not like (Baker). He’s played in every game down the stretch, but when he says he can’t play, then you know he’s injured.”
The Knights added to their poor shooting start to the season with another tough day from the field. The team finished the night shooting 15.4 percent from three, 65.2 percent from the free-throw line and 28.6 percent overall.
Lafayette picked up its first win of the season thanks in large part to the play of Leo O’Boyle, who finished with a game-high 18 points. Neal Quinn joined O’Boyle in double figures with 12 points and eight rebounds. Jenkins, the player who hit the game-winning shot, scored 5 points and tied Quinn for the team-high in rebounds with eight.
Rutgers will return to the court to take on UMass on Saturday. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and will be the Knights’ second road contest of the year. The game will be televised on Peacock.
“There’s nothing you can do about the past — you only can work on what you need to do to get better in the future,” Pikiell said. “We’ll devour film. We’ll keep working. We’ve got to get some new guys into the rotation.”
For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.