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Rutgers Basketball drops opener to Princeton: Not pretty but no time to panic

The Scarlet Knights dropped its season-opener on Monday night.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't pretty on Monday night.

A new-look Rutgers team entered the season with NCAA Tournament aspirations and struggled out of the gate. The in-state rivalry between Rutgers and Princeton returned for the first time in a decade and it was the Tigers who looked like the superior team.

Issues from last season came up once again. Rutgers was 6-for-14 on layups. It struggled to rebound. Most importantly, a new-look backcourt did not flow right away.

Yes, there are many questions to answer after last night but it is not time to push the panic button just yet. This is not to say that anyone is but there is greener grass for Rutgers for multiple reasons.

First, when a team is bringing in many new pieces, it could take some time to gel. The return of this rivalry was great for New Jersey college basketball but it was not the most favorable matchup for the Scarlet Knights to begin the year. Now, they will have to clean up in the non-conference elsewhere.

Second, Mawot Mag missed the game. Rutgers was without its best defender and one of its leaders on the floor. Mag practiced in the preseason but could need more time to fully recover from a torn ACL suffered last season.

Finally, Steve Pikiell. We have seen over the years that Pikiell is the type of coach that gets the most out of his team and makes necessary improvements over the course of the season.

On Monday, Rutgers shot 40.4% from the field and 4-for-14 from three-point range. Princeton jumped out early in this one and led for 30 minutes in the game. The Scarlet Knights showed its fast-paced style of play but could not shoot consistently to make it look good. That will have to improve moving forward.

Rutgers will return home on Friday to take on Boston. Fans will pack Jersey Mike’s Arena hoping for a better offensive showing in Piscataway. If this happens, it is one step closer to making the improvements needed.