Rutgers' players showcase talent in 1st victories of season

What a series it was for the Rutgers men’s basketball team!

On Thursday night, the Scarlet Knights (2-0) took on Bryant at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) in a nail-biting one-possession win. The final score was 73-71, but Rutgers seemed to be in the driver's seat for the majority of the game.

On Sunday afternoon, the Knights took on Niagara in a blowout win. Rutgers dominated the Purple Eagles (0-2) all the way up to the end of the game, where it eventually won by a final score of 86-39. This 41-point win was the program's largest win margin over a Division 1 opponent in, ironically, 41 years.

Though facing the Bulldogs (1-2) did not produce the type of victory that was expected, it remains true that a win is a win. Two players that stood out in this matchup were freshman guard Paul Mulcahy and sophomore guard Montez Mathis.

In Mulcahy’s debut for the Knights, he stuffed the stat sheet with 8 points, three assists and three rebounds in only 19 minutes of play. Mulcahy posted six assists. This was good for highest on the team. Mulcahy’s willingness to contribute across the board demonstrates what kind of talent he can bring when hitting the hardwood.

Mathis, the other standout, played exceptionally well also. He played only 25 minutes but managed to lead the team in scoring. He posted 11 points, six rebounds, two steals and one block. A strong outing on the defensive end helped the team push out a must-win game. 

After a one-possession win a couple of days before, Rutgers came out hungry to play its next opponent in Niagara. The Knights kept their foot on the pedal the whole way through. 

Junior guard Geo Baker led the team in total points with 22 while shooting an exceptional 8-of-11 from FG. He also knocked down 3 three-pointers, leading the team in that category as well. Baker also grabbed three rebounds, dished four assists, had one steal and swatted two blocks.

That defensive intensity from one of the team's experienced players is something that will be crucial down the road. Every team needs a veteran player to excel on defense. With Baker, the outstanding performance will assuredly become contagious for the rest of the team's defensive abilities.

Another standout player was graduate student forward Akwasi Yeboah. After struggling from the field in the previous game, Yeboah found his shooting stroke. He had 14 points and six rebounds while shooting 5-of-7 from FG, and 2-of-3 from the three-point line. His ability to help stretch the floor at his size will be an asset worth taking note of when playing better defensive teams.

The overall takeaway is that Rutgers showed true grit when coming off a close win against an opponent it was a favorite against. Head coach Steve Pikiell kept his men poised to have a better outing.

The Knights looked like a totally different team against the Eagles. The energy was positive, the defense was outstanding and it looked like the players were having fun putting on a show for their home crowd. 

Rutgers takes on Drexel at the RAC this Wednesday, looking to take a 3-0 start to this young season.  

For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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