By Dominick Savino
Three-year captain Myles Mack lived up to his billing Sunday night, launching a late-game scoring surge to lead the Rutgers men’s basketball team (2-1) to a 76-73 victory over the Saint Francis-Brooklyn Terriers (0-3) in what proved to be a more hotly contested game than the 1st half indicated.
From the tipoff, the Scarlet Knights were firing on all cylinders. The Terriers attempted to slow the Scarlet Knights’ high-tempo offense at the start of the game by applying relentless full-court pressure, but Rutgers succeeded in breaking the press and jumped out to an early 9-2 lead. By the midway point of the 1st half, Rutgers held a commanding 24-14 lead, thanks in part to six traveling violations by the Terriers in the first six minutes of the game. The Terriers clawed themselves back into the game, cutting the deficit to as little as 7, but three Myles Mack steals in the last four minutes helped push the lead into double digits. As time expired in the first half, a corner 3-pointer by freshman forward D.J. Foreman sent Rutgers into the locker room up 45-32, the largest lead of the contest.
Out of the intermission, St. Francis looked like a completely different team, as strong post play by forwards Amdy Fall and Kevin Douglass sparked a 24-11 Terrier run during the first 10 minutes of the half and leveled the score at 56. With 9:09 left in the game, a corner 3-pointer by guard Gunnar Olafsson gave Saint Francis its first lead of the night. However, with 6 minutes left, Myles Mack brought Rutgers back to life, scoring 5 points in less than a minute to give the Scarlet Knights a slim, one-point margin. The lead would change hands five times following Mack’s go-ahead layup, until the Scarlet Knights took it back for good with 26 seconds left. Two Myles Mack free throws made the score 75-73, and stout Rutgers defense during the Terriers’ last possession forced them into a poor shot from behind the arc that fell into the lap of Junior Etou.
Myles Mack was by far the Scarlet Knights’ key player, scoring a team-high 25 points and picking up a career-best 8 steals to go with 5 rebounds. His constant defensive pressure and quick hands in the passing lanes were the prominent reasons behind the Terriers’ 21 turnovers, and his perfect 8-8 performance from the line helped seal the deal for the Scarlet Knights late in the 2nd half.
Lost in Mack’s performance and the hard-fought win was the return of senior forward and co-captain Kadeem Jack, who made his first start and appearance this season after sitting out the team’s first two games with a right thumb injury. He finished the game with 13 points on 5-11 shooting and 5 rebounds, all on the offensive glass. When asked about Jack after the game, Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan said, “We had to monitor his minutes, see how his stamina and conditioning was. But he made some big-time shots off the glass tonight.”
The Scarlet Knights’ win Sunday comes at an important point during the early part of the season, as it brings the team over .500 before it enters a stretch of 4 games in 7 days that includes road matchups against Vanderbilt and Clemson.
The Rutgers men’s basketball team plays its next game on Tuesday, November 25 at the RAC against St. Peter’s University. Tipoff is at 7:00pm, and coverage begins on WRSU 88.7 FM at 6:45.