New lineup faces pivotal AAC matchup
Head coach Eddie Jordan possibly eliminated the opportunity for some Rutgers men’s basketball veterans to play significantly.
Jordan expressed faith in the lineup he used for the entire final 10:19 Thursday against Memphis: junior guard Myles Mack, junior wing Malick Kone, freshman forward Junior Etou and junior forwards Craig Brown and Kadeem Jack.
That left junior guard Jerome Seagears, senior forward J.J. Moore and senior forward Wally Judge to play a combined 38 minutes.
It might stay that way.
That will become clear depending on the rotations Jordan uses tonight at Central Florida (10-15, 2-12).
Jordan never needed to address the rotation he used in the final 10 minutes against Memphis with his team (10-17, 4-10). His action was enough.
“They’re attentive. They’re enthusiastic. They’re after it,” Jordan said yesterday via teleconference. “They seem to be serious and more disciplined than before.”
Jordan stalled for a couple seconds when answering about the future of Seagears, who played five minutes against the Tigers.
“Jerome’s helped us in some games,” Jordan said. “The minutes that he thinks he deserves in some games, it’s just going to be my call — are we going to stay big or are we going to be able to [use the] backcourt? There [are] some things that we’ve all got to get better at, and it’s going to be my call as to who’s playing the right way that particular game.”
Seagears generally plays less in the games he does not start, failing to break 20 minutes in three of the last five games.
If Seagears’ playing time is reduced and few changes are made to junior guard D’Von Campbell’s minutes, that puts Mack at point guard even more often than usual.
“He’s got to not look at the basket so much, but help his teammates look at the basket,” Jordan said. “But for the most part, I am still hanging my hat on the guys who I trusted in the game on Thursday.”
As Mack develops his point guard play, Jack continues to smoothly transition to center. Jack recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds against Memphis, playing the five for the final 10:19.
With Judge graduating, it is quite likely Jack will play more center next year, Jordan says. Kone’s and Brown’s roles are still unclear.
Jordan emphasized grittiness, wanting to see more charges taken and fewer heat checks — when a player takes a poor shot to see how hot he’s shooting.
Kone tied for second on his team with 10 points against Memphis, also fighting for six rebounds and two steals.
Brown shot 0-for-4 from the field, but he fought his way to the free throw line to make three of those five shots. His free throws made and attempted were both team leads.
Rutgers stands one game behind in its goal for getting the sixth seed in the AAC Tournament. The UCF match will be Jordan’s opportunity to see how much Rutgers applied from his nonverbal lesson with the lineup change.
“We’re all going to make mistakes, but if you’re trying to do things right, if I coach you during the game where it’s a constructive criticism, are you willing to be coached?” Jordan said. “Those [five] are. I like their purity of heart.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JoshBakan. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.