June 23, 2018 | ° F

Knights reverse fortune in RAC?romp

Photo by Nelson Morales |

Sophomore forward Kadeem Jack drives against Sacred Heart’s Justin Swidowski. Jack played only nine minutes, but he contributed five points.

After Friday night’s season-opening loss, Rutgers head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice accused the Scarlet Knights of playing selfishly.

Nothing gave him the basis to repeat that statement in last night’s 88-62 victory against Sacred Heart at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

“They brought the right mentality,” Rice said. “[They had] the right resolve and toughness. [Fans] saw a very balanced, very unselfish performance.”

The Knights had to look hard in their first time out to find production in their lineup.

Photo: Nelson Morales

Junior guard Mike Poole finishes off a dunk last night in an 88-62 win against Sacred Heart, the Knights’ first of the season. Poole was one of 10 Knights to play at least 10 minutes under head coach Mike Rice.

They had to look as hard last night to find a player who did not produce.

The Knights committed eight more turnovers Friday than they did assists.

Against the Pioneers, Rutgers flipped that number and then some, ending the contest with 20 assists and seven turnovers.

It took the Knights only 27 minutes of game play to surpass their scoring output from the previous contest, a number that began in the transition game, led by the frontcourt.

“We got steals, throw-aheads, layups, guys posting up,” said sophomore point guard Myles Mack. “We just got baskets off of that.”

Rutgers totaled 24 fast-break points, 18 more than they did in Friday’s loss.

Against the Peacocks, Mack and sophomore guards Eli Carter and Jerome Seagears combined for 15 points, looking like shells of themselves from last season.

Carter surpassed that mark by himself last night, scoring 18 points off 7-for-15 shooting.

Seagears dished out four assists, more than the trio of guards combined for last game.

And Mack looked every part the leader the team needed him to be, ending the contest with 14 points.

“He’s got a nice way of leading, and it’s not always the most vocal at times,” Rice said. “He’s got a nice feel and a nice approach. [Tonight he] was very steady.”

The final result was a product not only of the improvement in guard play, but also the production from the forwards.

Junior forward Wally Judge turned in a solid performance once again, recording his second double-double in as many games in a Rutgers uniform.

He ended with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes, missing only one of his six shots in the contest.

But his influence extends beyond the stat sheet. He also draws several defenders, freeing up the players around him.

“He takes a lot of the stress, a lot of the load with the rebounds,” said senior forward Austin Johnson. “It’s a lot easier for my game and the other, younger guys that come in.”

The only black mark on Judge’s card came from a familiar spot — the free-throw line.

He made only one of his six free-throw attempts.

One other forward turned in a performance that excited Rice.

“Kadeem Jack joined the ball club today,” he said. “We had a Kadeem Jack sighting. That’s exciting because he has his inconsistent days, but it seems every time the light went on, he was very inconsistent. Him having fun with the game of basketball … just shows Rutgers fans what he truly can bring.”

But the offense, Rice believes, does not tell the whole story.

He said much of what the Knights accomplished on the offensive end came courtesy of the defense, which began with stopping Sacred Heart guard Shane Gibson, who posted 29 points in his last contest.

Against Rutgers, Gibson scored only seven points and went 3-for-15 from the field. Rice said senior wing Dane Miller led the group on defense.

“Every time that he was on the floor, he was giving energy,” Rice said. “If he does that, we’re going to be a good defensive team. Sometimes he cruises past defensive possessions and he shouldn’t, because when you’re that physically talented, you have to give everything you have.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.

By Joey Gregory

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