Well, Rutgers fans, exhale for a minute.
Yes, it's just a game against Sacred Heart, but it looked completely different, didn't it? Mike Rice changed the starting line-up, sitting Jerome Seagears, Eli Carter and Kadeem Jack. He inserted Myles Mack, Mike Poole and Austin Johnson. The new squad came out and moved the ball, but the shot didn't fall and Rutgers went down 11-6.
Mike Rice went back to Carter and Seagears, and the ball started to fall. Rutgers went on a 33-6 run. Mack, Judge, Carter, and Dane Miller all scored in double digits and the ball rarely stuck in the players' hands. Instead, there was crisp movement, clever assists, and smart shots. And Rutgers was about to score 88 points even though they only shot 3 of 14 from beyond the arc.
The most interesting aspect of this game was the emergence of Wally Judge. Yes, he recorded his second double-double in as many games. Yes, he's a physical beast and he hauls in some really difficult rebounds. But he's also emerging as Rutgers' leader. Watching him on the court when play wasn't going on, he was often talking to his teammates, encouraging. After a foul call, he brought the team together. And he was first off the bench to congratulate his teammates. If Judge becomes this team's leader, watch out. He has the experience of playing in the NCAAs. Let's see how he fares against Big East competition.
Granted, this game was against Sacred Heart. They wanted to run up and down the court and score the ball. Playing defense was not their focus and Rutgers was able to use that to their advantage. But this type of play will be a lot of opponents, assuming Rutgers can keep their composure.
Their first test of that composure will come Friday night, as the Knights take on Princeton. Princeton will try to muck it up and use the shot clock, like St. Peter's did. We'll find out what Rutgers has learned then. Mike Rice has yet to beat the Tigers, losing two very close games in his first two years.
Looking for a sign of improvement, Scarlet Knights? Win that one.