Big Ten Basketball can often be a physical, slow-paced game with scores stuck in the 50s or 60s. That's not always the case (hello Indiana), but seeing low scoring games in the conference has been commonplace over the years. What's not so common is for the two teams facing to score a combined 71 points.
That's what happened at the end of November last year when Rutgers faced off against a top ten Virginia team in the Barclays Center Classic. Virginia wasn't exactly a defensive pushover, allowing only 51.5 points per game (1st in the nation) thanks to their suffocating defense and extremely slow style of play, but 26 was a season best for the Cavaliers (a few teams were close, though, with Harvard scoring 27, Georgia Tech 28 and Wake Forest 34).
The worst thing for the Scarlet Knights was the fact that they were actually competitive and took a lead into the half, edging Virginia 18-17 at the break. The two teams were tied with 17:59 remaining after a Kadeem Jack jumper and then everything fell apart for Rutgers, scoring a whopping four points over the last 17:58. At the end of the day Rutgers held the #8 team in the country to 45 points on 32.7% shooting and still lost by 19 points. While it's hard to understate how good Virginia's defense was last year, even more so when you consider how their style of offense keep possessions to an absolute minimum, it doesn't change the fact that Rutgers shot 25% from the field, missing all 13 three pointers, and was only capable of drawing three free throws on their 48 field goal attempts.
If there was any sort of positive from that disaster of a performance, it was the reality that it wasn't the worst thing the Big Ten has seen. Scoring 26 points is something another Big Ten program had done back in 1999, when Northwestern was held to the same amount of points in a game against Evansville. That Wildcats team was much worse than Rutgers, as the Kevin O'Neill coached team was also held to 29 points against Michigan State and 30 against Illinois...actually, they were held to less than 50 points in 14 games. All in all they won a total of five games that season in one of the worst Big Ten seasons in recent history.
The good news for Rutgers is that it's a new year and they'll have an opportunity to start over again. While Maryland hit the ground running in their first year as a Big Ten member, Rutgers imploded after inexplicably upsetting Wisconsin and appear destined to finish at the bottom of the conference once again in 2015-16. Head coach Eddie Jordan has his hands full, even more so as the university has dealt with a ton of recent controversy within the athletic department, but his Scarlet Knights should slowly be building towards being a more competitive program. At the very least, they shouldn't be held to 26 points again this year.