Knights rejuvenate early after year-opening loss
The Rutgers men’s basketball team did not waste nearly as much time climbing the scoreboard last night against Sacred Heart as it did in its season opener Friday against St. Peter’s.
The Scarlet Knights reached 23 points with eight minutes remaining in the first half, something they failed to do in the entire first stanza against the Peacocks.
Following Friday’s loss, junior forward Wally Judge said the team needed a leader and someone to step up.
Rutgers did not have someone come forward. It had several players figure into the scoring column early on, including some players who were relatively silent against St. Peter’s.
“We talked about approach, we talked about not being a fraud, not saying team on three, say ‘Rutgers’ or ‘family,’” said head coach Mike Rice. “Now, we say ‘Rutgers.’ Now we are going to take pride in what we do.”
The Knights lacked production from their guards, a platoon they relied on throughout the entirety of last season.
But that changed in the early going against the Pioneers.
Sophomore guard Eli Carter matched his scoring output from the previous game in less than four minutes of play, ending the first half with 12 points.
It also only took him one half to tie his single-game point total for the season.
Junior guard Mike Poole tallied four points and two assists in the first half, while sophomore guard Jerome Seagears notched three assists of his own.
Sophomore guard Myles Mack added four points during that time, as well.
But Judge once again led the charge from inside the paint, notching six points and six rebounds before the clock reached halftime.
All of it contributed to a 41-21 score at the half, rarified air for this year’s team, early on at least.
“Whether it’s clear or not, [the team] just brought the right approach and the right mentality tonight,” Rice said.
By the time the first 20 minutes had ticked off the clock, seven different Knights had scored and six different players had at least four points.
As many players reached that plateau in the entire game against the Peacocks.
Judge was the only Knight to pick up more than one foul in the first half, forcing him to miss more time than Rice would have liked him to.
But one of his fellow forwards provided more support than he did against St. Peter’s, or any other team in his career at Rutgers.
Sophomore Kadeem Jack reached a new career high in points in the first half with five.
His previous watermark of four points came twice before, most recently March 3 against St. John’s.
Senior forward Austin Johnson also provided production, notching four points and a rebound in nine first-half minutes.
Rice stayed true to his projection of lineup changes against Sacred Heart. He benched Carter, Jack and Seagears in favor of Mack, Poole and Johnson.
“I don’t think we’re going to stay with one starting lineup this year,” Rice said. “We’re going to sent some messages every once in a while.”
He also kept his substituting habits intact, playing 10 different Knights the first half, nine of whom saw at least nine minutes of action.
Only sophomore forward Derrick Randall saw less time, totaling only three minutes in the first half.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey?Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.