Rutgers collapses in heartbreaking March Madness loss to Houston

It was all there for Rutgers. A Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse. A second straight narrow NCAA Tournament victory. Another week in Indianapolis. It led by nine with 5:21 left, and Houston star point

It was all there for Rutgers. A Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse. A second straight narrow NCAA Tournament victory. Another week in Indianapolis. It led by nine with 5:21 left, and Houston star point guard De’Jon Jarreau was hobbled.

In what felt like a flash, it was over. The season. The run. All of it.

Second-seeded Houston scored the game’s final seven points and went on a 14-2 run over the final 4:30, erased a 10-point second-half deficit and advanced with a 63-60 victory over No. 10 Rutgers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The Scarlet Knights committed two turnovers in the final half-minute, ruining what would’ve been the team’s first trip to the Sweet 16 in 42 years.

Houston got within five on a Jarreau 3-pointer with 4:16 left and took the lead on Tramon Mark’s three-point play with 24.1 seconds left. Geo Baker lost the ball on the other end, and Marcus Sasser hit two free throws with 9.0 seconds to go. Ron Harper Jr.’s 3-point attempt was off, ending the Scarlet Knights’ season.

Baker scored 14 points for Rutgers, while Quentin Grimes had 22 for Houston.

Rutgers’ Cliff Omoruyi tries to hold onto the ball during a loss to Houston on Sunday.
AP

Rutgers was jittery early. It missed its first six shots from the field. It couldn’t get anywhere near the paint. Houston led 16-9 less than eight minutes in.

But the Scarlet Knights would find their footing. They reeled off an 11-2 run to take their first lead on a Caleb McConnell steal and basket. It was 30-27 at the break, in large part due to Rutgers’ defense producing offense, seven Houston turnovers leading to 11 points.

Rutgers played an elite defensive first 20 minutes, holding the Cougars to 36 percent shooting, just two free throws and only three second-chance points, one of their strengths. Over a stretch of 4:52 late in the half, Houston was held without a field goal.

Reserve guard Montez Mathis was the offensive star for Rutgers, coming off the bench to hit two 3-pointers and score a team-high 10 in the first half.

After a brief jolt by Houston coming out of the break, Rutgers settled down and took command. It made eight of its first 11 shots of the second half, and four of six from deep, to build a 50-40 lead with 11:18 remaining on the strength of a 15-5 run that included a combined 10 points from Baker and Jacob Young. A few minutes earlier, Baker sank a 3-pointer and Jarreau reinjured his hip on a screen by Myles Johnson.

It didn’t keep him down for too long. He returned and led the stunning comeback.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Zach Braziller

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