Rutgers grinded through a ugly game with Merrimack, winning 48-35. Four Thoughts:
Jaden Jones and Aundre Hyatt: In the second half, Jones’ really stepped up offensively, when the Scarlet Knights needed it most. He put in 9 points, all in the second half. And, with Rutgers up 4, his heads up rebound and put back of a missed front end of the a one and one while everyone else was sleeping really helped Rutgers gain momentum. His athleticism on defense disrupted the slower Merrimack guards and helped to turn the tide. Hyatt offered the same, knocking down a huge 3 and turning over a pesky Merrimack team for a layup that essentially iced the game. He finished with only 8 points, but they were big.
Paul Mulcahy and Caleb McConnell: Neither player played their best game and Pikiell kept them on the bench for the last 8 minutes of the second half. Mulcahy was turnover prone and had a lot of trouble reading Merrimack’s zone. McConnell took some questionable shots and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn today. Maybe it was match-ups, maybe it was something else, but these are two veterans, and I assume they will have a better game going forward.
Merrimack Was Pesky: Merrimack came to play basketball today and really took it to Rutgers. Their zone kept them in the passing lanes. They were able to turn Rutgers over 10 times in the first half. They hit some big threes, but thankfully Rutgers showed up defensively in the second half and played Rutgers basketball to end the game. Merrimack shot woefully in the second half, scoring only 12 points. It was an ugly game.
No Fast Break: Rutgers dominated on the boards in this game 49-34, but they never pushed it. And it wasn’t as if Merrimack was dropping back as soon as a shot went up. But for some reason, Rutgers was content to just sit in the half court and trying to figure out the zone. It seemed to me that the better strategy was to use their athleticism and height and get up and down the court. That didn’t happen, as you can tell by the score.
Either way, I was heartened by the second half. Rutgers is 2-0 with NJIT on deck.