Rider came out with St. Peter's gameplan and, for 3 quarters of the game, it worked. They were able to hold both of Rutgers' starting guards to a total of 1 point. They were really frustrating Rutgers from the outside, d-ing up strong and stopping the Scarlet Knights' two superstars.
In November, this game would have been a loss. But Rutgers has grown since St. Peter's. Not by leaps and bounds, but incrementally. So Eli Carter trusted his teammates and got the ball to Wally Judge, Austin Johnson and Kadeem Jack, and the big men took care of business. Rutgers scored 24 points in the first half and those three took care of 22 of them.
In the second half, Carter and Dane Miller erupted for 15 and 18 respectively. Miller stopped trying to drive and dump, instead drove and score or went to the line. It was an impressive adjustment by the David Cox run team. The Scarlet Knights have started to come together as a team, and there seems to be some real chemistry growing on the court. Myles Mack was off his game, and reports were he was fighting illness. Still, he played 33 minutes.
Rutgers won 68-56, pulling away late.
And, thusly, the David Cox era comes to an end. The team did what it was supposed to in the Out of Conference schedule, finishing 9-2. Mike Rice returns to practice today and is expected to address the media at 3 pm. Look for quotes later in the day.
Next up, the Big East, and Rutgers' start is brual. They travel to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse before coming home for an 11 am start against Pittsburgh. Then it's a trip to St. John's (where Rutgers has never played well) before Cincinnati comes to town.
And there are a lot of questions too. Did the team respond to David Cox, or will they really jump out of the gate with Rice on the sidelines again? Rutgers needs to win at least 7 games in the Big East to have a shot at the NIT. Probably more.
This team is getting better, and there is a ton of potential. But this team needs a big win to start building some real momentum. There are plenty of opportunities to get that win coming soon.