Rutgers' poor start to the season was unexpected both inside and outside the program. Coming off its most decorated season in 30 years, the team has struggled in all five games and lost its last two.
The Scarlet Knights will get their next chance to right the ship in Saturday's visit to UMass at Amherst, Mass.
Rutgers (3-2) dropped a 53-51 result to previously winless Lafayette at home Monday. Ron Harper Jr. put Rutgers ahead with 30 seconds left on a 3-pointer, but Kyle Jenkins responded with the game-winning trey for Lafayette in the final two seconds.
That disappointment followed a back-and-forth, 73-70 loss at DePaul on Nov. 18.
"I think we're a lot better than this, obviously," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell told reporters. "We lost two one-possession games. I'd like to be 5-0. That's where I thought we'd be right now, but we're not there and 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. We'll devour film, we'll keep working."
Even if the Scarlet Knights were 5-0, there would be alarm bells for a program that reached its first NCAA Tournament since 1991 and won its first tournament game since 1983 last spring. They trailed at halftime in their first four games -- against Lehigh, Merrimack, NJIT and DePaul. They rank 346th in Division I with a 24.2 percent 3-point rate.
"I'm not worried at all, to be honest," guard Paul Mulcahy said. "I'm not happy, but I'm not worried. We have a really good team and we've shown a lot of flashes of that, at least to each other."
UMass (4-3) has already toppled one Big Ten foe this year. The Minutemen routed Penn State 81-56 on Nov. 15.
The Atlantic 10 team is 3-0 at home after outlasting in-state rival UMass Lowell 92-81 on Wednesday. Six players scored in double figures, led by Javohn Garcia's 18 points.
Montana transfer Michael Steadman made his debut for the Minutemen in that game and provided 10 points and four rebounds in just 12 minutes off the bench.
"It just felt great being out there. I've watched the first six games, so just being out there with the guys and competing at a high level was a good thing," Steadman said, per the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. "Maybe the first two minutes I was rushing, the game was kind of fast, but it kind of slowed down in the second half."
--Field Level Media