Rutgers advances in AACs despite guard’s high scoring
MEMPHIS — Following the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s 72-68 victory over South Florida last night, the Scarlet Knights finished the year 3-0 against the Bulls for the season.
While the Knights proved they have USF’s number this season, the same could be said for Bulls forward Victor Rudd.
USF’s leading scorer once again put up huge numbers against Rutgers, collecting 22 points to lead his team. He also had a game-high 15 foul shot attempts, but only converted 10.
Rudd was able to force his way into the paint at will, daring the Knights to try and stop him, which often led to trips to the foul line.
Against Rutgers on March 1, Rudd posted a game-high 26 points, including shooting 4-of-7 from 3-point range, but came up short on USF’s final possession.
The same was true for Rudd in this game, as he failed to provide when it counted most. Despite USF’s loss, Bulls’ head coach Stan Heath had nothing but praise for his star.
“These two guys [Rudd and guard Martino Brock] gave 100 percent and really worked hard and tried to make plays for our basketball team,” Heath said.
Though Rutgers was victorious, the Knights collected only six offensive rebounds. In their two previous games against the Bulls, Rutgers collected 10 and 13 rebounds in the offensive end.
The Knights shot 52 percent from the field in the first half, which may have caused the low total.
But Rutgers finished the game shooting 47.4 percent, a drastic drop off in the second half that helped the Bulls find themselves back in the match.
But senior forward J.J. Moore’s offensive rebound on junior forward Kadeem Jack’s second missed foul shot attempt with the Knights lead at just two sealed the victory.
“[Moore’s] an energetic guy and plays the passing lanes and he brings a lot of energy for us,” said junior guard Myles Mack. “We needed him in the second half and he brought it for us.”
The Knights finished with four different players scoring in double figures, demonstrating the team’s growth with others stepping up in crucial moments.
Junior guard Malick Kone could have made it five Rutgers players in double figures, but finished just short with eight points in 22 minutes off the bench.
Kone totaled a combined nine points in the Knights’ previous two meetings against the Bulls.
Although Kone finished shy of double-digits, the Conakry, Guinea native was 4-of-6 from the field and provided valuable minutes on the defensive end.
Rutgers had control for long stretches of the game in the second half and part of it was due to Kone’s defense, including some lockdown defending at times on Rudd.
In total, the Knights did not allow a single 3-pointer in the game, though USF only shot four because of its success getting in the paint.
With everyone starting to give larger contributions down the stretch, the Knights’ morale is high heading into Louisville.
“Me, Kadeem and the guys always talk about confidence and just standing together,” Mack said. “We stayed together throughout the first half, second half the confidence level of staying together went down a little bit but we fought through it.”