Coburn’s Big Night Ends With Rutgers Loss to West Virginia

By Matt Sugam
Matt Sugam
Matt Sugam
February 27, 2011 Updated: August 26, 2011

PISTCATWAY, N.J.—After their worst performance of the year in an embarrassing home loss to No. 16 Louisville, Rutgers’ season was hanging in the balance. They needed to prove to their head coach that they weren’t packing the season in.

While they looked far from a team that had quit on the season, Rutgers fell to West Virginia 65–54 in a similar fashion to how they’ve lost most of their games this year.

The Scarlet Knights grinded it out, had their opportunities to take the lead in the second half—and did so at times—but could never truly take control of the game.

Trying to go out with a win on Senior Day, the Knights’ longest-tenured player Mike Coburn did all he could.

The 6-foot guard finished with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but his fellow seniors Jonathan Mitchell and James Beatty—who transferred into the program two years ago—struggled.

Mitchell finished with eight points after averaging 14.4 points per game, while Beatty scored just two points coming from the free throws.

The two seniors finished a combined 2-of-16 from the floor, as the Scarlet Knights shot just 34 percent from the field.

“We knock down our shots, we’re a different team,” head coach Mike Rice said.

The inability to hit shots caught up with Rutgers in the final minutes of the game. Trailing 53–52 after Mitchell sunk a pair of free throws with 2:50 to go, the Knights would score just two more points in the rest of the game.

Lacking what every other Big East team has didn’t help Rutgers.

“We don’t have, per se, a go-to player,” Rice said. “It’s tough in this league when everybody has definitely one, sometimes two and three go-to guys, it’s difficult.”

With two road games to go before the Big East tournament, Rutgers’ hope of making the NIT is quickly fading. Losers of eight of their last nine, Rutgers will have to win their final two games and a Big East tournament game to even have a chance at postseason play.

“Of course,” Mitchell said of the team thinking about the NIT. “That was our goal for postseason, so obviously that was probably in the back of our minds because we knew we had to get one of these games.”

While the goal is becoming unattainable as rapidly as it seemed within reach, Mitchell knows the schedule is in his team’s favor as they travel to Big East bottom-feeders DePaul and Providence.

“We got two winnable games in my opinion,” Mitchell said. “We just have to come back after the emotional day today, and tomorrow we [will] come right back ready to work.”

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Matt Sugam