Far too often this season, Kadeem Jack had gone to the finger roll or the long jump shot. Those decisions have led to many missed shots, and taken Jack away from his strengths. Rutgers has been hurt in the process.
Today, Jack went back to his strengths.
Judging by the radio broadcast--because MSG opted not to air the first game of the holiday festival--Jack and Junior Etou were at their attacking best. They were out on the break, running back cuts and--most importantly--throwing down dunks. Jack scored a game high 24 . Etou scored 16. The aggressiveness and toughness they showed help Rutgers, especially on a day when Myles Mack was unbearably cold--he only scored 2 points. Malick Kone played quality minutes to, when the team was looking for a body not hampered by fouls.
In the postgame, Jack was optimistic. He was asked about Rutgers being respected in the Big Ten and responded by saying, "Y'all don't need to give us respect. We're gonna take it."
Meanwhile, Eddie Jordan was looking at babysteps. "The way we played today, the Big Ten schedule is like 20 years away from me. I'm looking to get better tomorrow."
Rutgers jumped out to a ten point lead at halftime, and it looked like they were going to cruise to the win. But it was not to be. Manhattan turned up the pressure on their press and forced Rutgers to foul (most of the team was in foul trouble for most of the second half). The Jaspers were able to close the gap down to two points before Rutgers woke up again.
Kadeem Jack also imposed his will on the defensive end with blocks all over the place. Etou was a rebounding force. Rutgers did what it had to do and withstood Manhattan's desperation. They also finished 23-25 from the free throw line, what winning teams do.
Jordan said, "I like where our defense is going to. When we don't turn the ball over and we can defend, we're in the game."
Bishop Daniels returned today, and didn't start--Mike Williams did--but once he got in, Daniels played a lot. And most of that was with foul trouble. He was definitely able to give Mack and Williams the breathers they needed.
But he also played on the respect factor, telling Dick Lloyd, "You’re the only guy who’s positive about us most of the—all of the time!"
So now, Rutgers is 6-4. They have a week off--presumably for finals--and will return to the court on Saturday for an afternoon matinee.
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