Sophomore sees significant playing time in win
PRINCETON, N.J. — Junior forward Wally Judge already collected three fouls when Rutgers head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice re-inserted him with 10:59 left in the second half.
Judge remained on the floor for a whole 10 seconds before committing his fourth foul on an inbounds pass, forcing a frustrated Judge to the sideline.
In came sophomore forward Kadeem Jack, whose 21 minutes in Friday night’s 58-52 win at Princeton were the most playing time he has seen in his career.
It was the second straight game, Jack was a presence on the defensive end. The Queens native registered a team-high six blocks in Rutgers’ first victory of the season Nov. 12 against Sacred Heart.
Jack was a presence in a different stat column against the Tigers, as he collected seven rebounds — tying a team high with Judge — in reserve action for the Knights.
“Athletically, [Jack] is a freak of nature,” said senior forward Austin Johnson. “I feel like once he gets it, he’s going to be a terror and somebody to be reckoned with. He’s coming along. [We] saw that tonight.”
But while both Jack and Judge were a presence on the glass, Rice was more concerned with the lack of scoring from the duo.
They combined for five points, with Jack collecting the only field goals between them.
“If you told me Wally was going to have a doughnut [in the scoring column] and Kadeem was 1-for-7 [from the field], I would have been nervous about that,” Rice said. “But other guys had each other’s back.”
That came in the form of the guard play for the Knights, who provided the team’s scoring punch.
Their play gave the Knights’ forwards the ability to concentrate more in the paint against a bigger Princeton frontcourt.
That included the play of Johnson, who scored five straight points, including a put-back layup and foul with 1:52 left in the game to give the Knights a 55-47 lead.
Johnson was also present on the boards, something Judge and Jack contributed to, as well.
Rutgers had four players with five rebounds or more, including Jack, Judge, Johnson and senior wing Dane Miller.
The performance led to Rutgers outrebounding Princeton, 42-24, in the game, a stat line Tigers head coach Mitch Henderson thought would be an advantage for his team against a smaller Rutgers rotation.
“It’s concerning,” Henderson said of the rebound total. “I think that is something we want to hang our hat on this year, so it’s disappointing. I thought that was a major point.”
While the loss of Judge for much of the second half did no favors for Rutgers, Johnson believed his teammates, in particular Jack, did a good job of carrying the load left by the Kansas State transfer’s absence.
“Everyone played their part,” Johnson said. “It was rebounding by committee and scoring by committee. [Jack] really started us off. I felt like I came out sluggish. Wally probably feels the same way. But [Jack] came in and provided a spark plug for us [and] was really active.”
The win marked the first time Rutgers defeated Princeton since a 58-44 home victory against the Tigers in 2009.
It also was the first win against Princeton for Rice.
The Knights were unsuccessful in 2010 in their last trip to Jadwin Gymnasium, suffering a 78-73 overtime loss in Rice’s first season.
Rutgers lost on a buzzer beater last season at home against the Tigers, 59-57, with then-junior forward Ian Hummer making the game-winning shot on the last possession.
“It’s a lot of history [to go up against],” Rice said. “It was a good victory. Guys scratched and clawed.”
With the win, Rutgers moves to 45-74 all-time against Princeton. It was only the 16th road victory against the Tigers.