May 23, 2019 | 66° F

Knights play sloppily in exhibition victory

Photo by Luoye Wang |

Sophomore forward Greg Lewis attempts a lay-up en route to a 6-point, eight-rebound performance Friday against Caldwell.

Sophomore forward Greg Lewis is soft-spoken and says he is about 85 percent recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery he had last year.

Rutgers head men’s basketball coach Eddie Jordan made him one of three captains and started him in Friday’s 90-60 exhibition victory against Caldwell at the Louis Brown Athletic Center anyway.

“I wanted to get him in there,” Jordan said. “I didn’t want him to sit [on the bench] and get nervous. I know how it is. I just wanted to throw him in the fire and get him used to playing in front of a crowd.”

Starting at center, Lewis contributed 6 points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes. Although Jordan said senior Wally Judge would likely start at center Friday against Florida A&M, Lewis showed some value.

He said his condition prevented him from playing significantly — he rarely played more than five minutes at a time. His knee still fatigues him pretty quickly when he plays, especially at game speed.

“Coach [Jordan] knows my condition’s not all that great right now,” Lewis said. “I’m still working on that, but it’s getting better.”

It took Lewis time to find rhythm, as he first went to the bench with 16:14 left in the first half after two personal fouls and a turnover off his poor pass.

Lewis was not the only sloppy player, as Rutgers lost the turnover battle, 20-16.

“I thought both sides of the ball we struggled,” Jordan said. “We weren’t good enough. It looked like we were running with two left feet. So we looked awkward. We didn’t have any good rhythm, any type of synchronization in offense or defense. I thought we were just so jagged.”

It might take time for Rutgers to adjust to a running offense, which Jordan said during the team’s media day not to call a Princeton offense.

Junior guard Myles Mack, who Jordan named a captain with Lewis and junior forward Kadeem Jack, recorded a team-leading16 points. It helped that nobody more than an inch taller than the 5-foot-9 Mack guarded him.

Senior forward J.J. Moore also thrived off the running style, especially off fast breaks, with 14 points. Moore first raised the crowd’s excitement with an emphatic dunk with 15:19 left in the first half to create a 9-2 Rutgers lead.

The exhibition against a Division-II foe also allowed Jordan to experiment with his lineups.

Mack, Lewis, Jack, Moore and junior guard Jerome Seagears started. But Judge, sophomore wing Kerwin Okoro, junior wing Malick Kone, junior guard D’Von Campbell and junior wing Craig Brown combined for 91 of the bench’s 97 minutes.

Okoro, Kone and Brown combined for 19 points, which displayed Rutgers’ swingman depth.

Nonetheless, Jordan looked elsewhere for captains and excluded seniors Judge and Moore.

“I wanted continuity,” Jordan said. “I wanted guys who were here last year and guys who were going to be here next year.”

The decision shows that even though Jordan wants to win now, Rutgers’ future victory prospects are more likely and Jordan has an eye on that.

“He told me why. I just took it in. I understand and he understood,” Moore said. “I like the choices that he made, and we pretty much think that everybody is a captain. Coach told me, ‘You’re a senior, and you’re vocal. Even though you’re not an actual leader, you’re a vocal leader.’”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JoshBakan. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

By Josh Bakan

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