The shot was a good one. Maybe that will come as a sliver of comfort across the next weeks and months when the Rutgers Scarlet Knights remember this game. Ron Harper Jr., a 40 percent shooter from 3-point range, had an open look.
The Knights were down 3, 63-60, after being up by nine with less than five minutes to go in this second-round Midwest Region game. That alone was sure to haunt them all summer. But now they had one more chance, one last shot to buy five extra minutes, maybe buy five extra days in Indianapolis.
Houston decided not to foul. The Cougars played it straight up. Geo Baker handed the ball off to Harper as the seconds bled off the clock, and Harper had a step of breathing room. He cocked and fired.
“I thought he had a great look,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell would say a bit later. “And I thought it was going in.”
It didn’t go in. It clanged off the left side of the rim, the ball landed in the hands of Cougars guard Tramon Mark, the buzzer blared, and the Rutgers contingent inside Lucas Oil Stadium — so loud, so boisterous, so engaged all night long, screaming themselves hoarse — fell silent.