Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Maryland Defeat Is Painful for Williams

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Maryland Defeat Is Painful for Williams

Article excerpt

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Mike Williams came out of the locker room afterward, friendly but disappointed. He's done this drill dozens of times over the last four years, and now the clock is running out.

The senior guard wants to leave his mark on Rutgers basketball — to break the 11-year skid of losing seasons -- but that got a lot harder after Saturday's 61-51 loss at Maryland.

"Just got to win these next few games," Williams said. "It's very important, especially because this my last year, I want to finish it right, finish it on a high note."

Nobody expected this Rutgers team to make the NCAA Tournament, or even the NIT. But a .500 campaign seemed like a reasonable goal in year two of the Steve Pikiell era, especially since the non-conference schedule was soft as a down pillow: all 13 games at home, mostly against low-majors, with a Division III patsy thrown in there as insulation.

Now the Scarlet Knights are 13-16 overall and 3-13 in the Big Ten. They'd have to win four straight games to even things out, beating ranked Ohio State on the road and Illinois at home before advancing to the third round of the Big Ten Tournament.

"We've got three wins right now in the league; that's what we had last year at the end," Pikiell said. "We've got a couple more games to make that a little bit better and we're going to fight to the end."

Williams, who has given everything to this program while others flew the coop as the gut-punch losses piled up, felt Rutgers was starting to turn the corner with victories over Seton Hall and Wisconsin. Then he suffered a severely sprained ankle that cost him a month. He willed himself back onto the court, despite continued pain -- at several points during his 27 minutes Saturday, he winced while cutting.

"It's a few plays against Nebraska, against Purdue (close losses at home) where I felt if I could have done something, played defense, hit a big shot, something to get us a win," Williams said of his time on the sideline. …

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