About 15 minutes before the game started, word began to leak out. Myles Mack was coming off the bench for the first time in his collegiate career. About 15 minutes after the game was over, all anyone could talk about was the show Mack put on during the game.
He scored a career high 22 points, and really ignited the Scarlet Knights' offense. And the Stony Brook Seawolves truly didn't have an answer.
More after the jump...Mack's first made shot was a 3 pointer, but where he really excelled was on the fast break. It's clear his game is to force a turnover and get out and run. In the second half, he flipped in a reverse lay-up that was highlight worthy, and as he ran back up the court, he acted like he can do that anytime he wants.
Since the beginning of the season, one of our other "On the Banks" writers has wanted to call Mack, Microwave Mack--instant offense from the bench. That name was fitting yesterday. Mack drove the Knights to victory.
The rest of the team was impressive defensively, really making it hard for Brian Dougher--the Seawolves star from Scotch Plains--to get anything going. Several times, Rutgers was able to push the lead to double digits, and really only at the end of the first half were they threatened. Dougher made a few long 3s, and close the game to 3 points. But, as improving teams do, the Knights responded and pushed the lead again.
One can see this team getting better with each game. Granted, the competition hasn't been great the last two games, but the defense is getting closer and closer to clamping down. The 2-2-1 press that falls back into a 2-3 zone has really taken teams by surprise, and the Scarlet Knights have been able to take advantage of it. The zone isn't a church league zone either, it's very active. RU is using its length to disrupt passing lanes, and to trap players in the corner. This will be an extremely effective weapon for the remainder of the season.
At the same time, Rutgers isn't clicking on all cylinders yet. They should have won this game by 20, not nine--Rice even said the team wasn't as excited as he expected in the locker room afterward. The man-to-man switching defense isn't quite there yet. The Scarlet Knights aren't closing out well on 3 points shooters yet, and that will be a problem against good teams (ie Florida, in a week and a half). Stony Brook was also able to pull down 21 offensive rebounds. And Dane Miller... well...
After playing the best game of his career, Miller fouled out and didn't score a point. His defense is still there and he's developing into a block machine, but his offense needs to become consistent. That could be an ongoing story all season.
Meanwhile, speculation continues about the return of Kadeem Jack and Malik Kone. Adam Zagoria reported Kone is expected to be in the line-up on December 29th against Florida. Jack could be a few more weeks. In his post game comments, according to Matt Sugam, Rice said he feels Jack is close--and has been dunking in practice. All that is officially known: Jack is scheduled for another check-up with the doctor soon. The quicker both players can come back, the easier it'll be to re-integrate them into the line-up.
That said, Rutgers did what they were supposed to do, beat a team they were better than. Next up is another tune-up game before the schedule gets rough. NJIT comes to the RAC on December 22nd. Another game that should be a rout.