RU lacks toughness in first test
Rutgers head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice stressed this year’s team is an improvement compared to the unit he had last season, despite having largely the same personnel.
The Scarlet Knights had their first chance to prove Rice correct yesterday in their 92-52 exhibition win against Holy Family at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
They did not — in Rice’s eyes.
“Looked like Tarzan, played like Jane,” Rice said. “[We were] soft. The team’s added strength is, and will be, a factor. But tonight, for some odd reason, they weren’t focused on finishing through contact.”
Rutgers saw only three major changes from last year’s squad.
While the Knights no longer have forward Gilvydas Biruta — who transferred to
Rhode Island in the offseason and reunited with his high school coach, Dan Hurley — they now employ the services of 6-foot-9 junior forward Wally Judge.
Judge sat out last season, per NCAA rules, after transferring from Kansas State and saw his first action at Rutgers against Holy Family.
Judge finished with seven points and six rebounds in
With a relatively young backcourt, Rice emphasized Judge’s and senior forward Austin Johnson’s importance.
“Austin and Wally are guys we can count on, who are bigger and stronger, who can throw it down and positive things happen,” Rice said, “whether it’s points, getting to the free throw line or a nice assist.”
Lee (Texas) Junior College transfer Vincent Garrett also saw his first time in a Rutgers uniform.
After impressing fans with his dunk contest victory Oct. 12 at MidKnight Madness, the junior had a chance to show the crowd what he could do in a game situation.
But Garrett recorded only four points and two assists in 15 minutes.
One of the most glaring issues Rice saw was a lack of finished shots and possessions. The Knights ended the game 33-for-70 from the field, resulting in a 47.1 shooting percentage.
“It’s a matter of toughness and not worrying about contact or anything else that goes in it,” Rice said. “Just go and finish.”
Overall, the Knights offered few surprises in terms of statistics leaders.
As was the case last season, the backcourt dominated the scoring column, as sophomore guards Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears and Eli Carter led
the team with 17, 16 and 14 points, respectively.
The guards — especially Carter, who added six assists — also displayed a willingness to share the ball that was decidedly absent last season. Rutgers finished the game with 23 assists as a team.
Much of that is a product of the guards looking to get the ball inside more than they did last season, Mack said.
“We practice throwing the ball inside all the time,” Mack said. “[We have] a lot of set plays to go inside. That’s what we were looking to do.
But while the Rutgers big men did not put up significant scoring numbers, they showed their physicality in rebounding.
They controlled the boards, earning a 51-35 rebounding advantage against the Tigers.
And as expected in an exhibition game, the Knights saw a steady rotation of players. Nine different Knights played double-digit minutes.
The next time Rutgers takes the court, the game counts toward its overall record, when it faces St. Peter’s on Friday at the RAC. It has plenty of growing to do before then.
Sophomore forward Greg Lewis will redshirt this season because of lingering problems with his knee, Rice said. Lewis appeared in 18 games last season, including a lone start in the Big East Tournament on March 6 against Villanova.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.