Fans were able to breath a sign of relief after not having to sweat out a victory during the season opener.
Rutgers took control of Columbia early and rode a huge second half to a 40-point victory. The Scarlet Knights did so without Caleb McConnell, who is working his way back from an injury. Until he does, the lineup is in good hands.
Aundre Hyatt stepped in for the injured McConnell and logged 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Bronx native knocked down two three-pointers and turned in his best performance in a Rutgers uniform. Whatever he is asked of this season, Hyatt is ready for.
“I don’t really care about starting or coming off the bench,” Hyatt said. “I just want to make an impact and do whatever it takes to help this team win.”
After transferring from LSU, Hyatt played 12 minutes per game last season. Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker are no longer in the mix this season. Hyatt got the chance to get his feet wet in the program and learn from the veterans. Now, he can take the next step in his progression.
“Ron and Geo leaving creates different opportunities for people to step up and have a bigger role. I’m looking forward to it,” Hyatt said. “Having a whole year last year to learn everything about this program, it gave me more confidence for this season.”
At 6-foot-6, 227 pounds, Hyatt brings great size and athleticism to the floor. He has a huge motor on both ends and brings an aggressive nature with his game. Hyatt grabbed 10 rebounds in the opener, with three coming on the offensive end.
“Every time a shot goes up, I’m just trying to crash the glass,” Hyatt said. “It just makes it part of the routine. That’s something that I’m going to try to keep up.”
Even when McConnell returns, Hyatt is going to be an important rotation player this season. He provides a spark when in the game and is as confident as ever. That, along with big goals, can make for a huge season for the junior.
“I want to be one of the best catch-and-shoot wings in the Big Ten and one of the best rebounders,” Hyatt said.