Rice emphasizes response after difficult defeat
The Rutgers men’s basketball team had a new season, new focus and what head coach Mike Rice described as a new approach to preparation.
But none of that prevented the Scarlet Knights from looking like the same young squad that took the field last season.
That resulted in a 56-52 loss Friday to St. Peter’s.
While junior transfer Wally Judge had an impressive start to his career — collecting a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds — the backcourt did not provide much support.
Sophomores Eli Carter, Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears scored a combined 15 points on 5-for-23 shooting.
When asked about their performance, all Rice could do was chuckle.
“They didn’t play very well,” he said. “They now have to become a little bit tougher and a little bit more disciplined. We’ll work on that.”
The Knights were supposed to take advantage of their added experience and their home court to begin their new season the way they wanted to.
But none of that materialized.
“At the end of the day, we were supposed to be the better team,” Judge said. “Congratulations to them for winning. They played hard. I can’t take anything away from them. They deserve it. At the end of the day, we let ourselves down.”
To make matters worse, Rutgers had only two days to fix what it saw.
The Knight take the court at the Louis Brown Athletic Center again tonight against Sacred Heart in hopes of recovering to enter the win column.
The running theme throughout the locker room after the game in relation to tonight’s game centered around one word — response.
Part of that response began before the game was even over. Rice substituted throughout the entire game, involving 11 different players.
“[We were] trying to find somebody who had any toughness, to be honest with you, any mental or physical [toughness], who had a purpose,” Rice said.
He expects to play a different lineup tonight against the Pioneers.
Sophomore forward Kadeem Jack is a likely candidate for opening the game on the bench, having played only eight minutes against the Peacocks.
Sacred Heart, on the other hand, is on the heels of erasing a 24-point deficit Saturday to top Yale in its season opener.
Rutgers had plenty of trouble controlling St. Peter’s guard Desi Washington — he led the Peacocks with 18 points — and if Friday is any indication, the Knights have another difficult game.
The Pioneers have senior guard Shane Gibson, who averaged 22 points per game last season, and opened this year’s campaign with 29 points.
Judge believes the team has to let its opener go and keep progressing.
“We took a punch, and it hurt,” he said. “We have to respond the right way. Now it’s over, and we have to go win the remaining games on our schedule.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.