Myles Mack

Seniors Myles Mack, Kadeem Jack lead Rutgers past No. 4 Wisconsin

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Even with Frank Kaminsky ruled out for Sunday’s game at Rutgers, the general consensus was that No. 4 Wisconsin had enough to take care of business and remain undefeated in Big Ten play. And through 20 minutes that assumption looked to be accurate, with the Badgers taking a 35-23 lead into the half after shooting nearly 47 percent from the field and making six more field goals (15-9) than the Scarlet Knights.

During one stretch Wisconsin made five straight field goals, going on a 12-4 run to expand their lead to 12 points with 6:13 remaining in the half.

But things changes in the second half, with Rutgers seniors Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack taking over and the Badgers losing point guard Traevon Jackson to a right foot injury. Final score: Rutgers 67, Wisconsin 62 with the Badgers being the highest-ranked team the Scarlet Knights have ever beaten, surpassing Rutgers’ win over No. 6 West Virginia in 1982.

While many will point to the absence of Kaminsky and Jackson’s injury as the reasons why Rutgers won, thus meaning that this shouldn’t be considered an upset, keep in mind that Rutgers had already lost home games to Northwestern, Saint Francis (PA) and Saint Peter’s prior to Sunday. Eddie Jordan’s team did have a conference win under its belt, as they beat Penn State, but this is quite the boost for a program that truly needed it in their first season as a member of the Big Ten.

Mack, who shot 4-for-5 from three and scored 19 points in the second half, finished with 21 and Jack added 20 as he thoroughly outplayed Sam Dekker. Dekker finished the game with just four points and two rebounds, an outing the Badgers could not afford given how shorthanded they were. Nigel Hayes led the way with 15 points and ten rebounds, but as a team Wisconsin looked lost at times offensively with Jackson in the locker room being attended to.

But even with the impact of Jackson’s injury, Rutgers deserves credit for not allowing the visitors to get back into the groove they were in during the first half.

By comparison Rutgers shot 66.7% from the field in the second half, scoring 44 points in what represents the highest-scoring half the Badgers have allowed since No. 2 Duke scored 45 in the second half of their 80-70 win in Madison on December 3.

Being shorthanded certainly didn’t help Wisconsin’s cause Sunday night. But the same can be said for their inability to slow down Rutgers after keeping them in check (relatively speaking, as Rutgers shot 41 percent) for most of the first half. As a result, Eddie Jordan’s program has its first major win as a member of the Big Ten.

Rutgers’ Kadeem Jack scores 13 points in first action of the season

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Last Sunday, Rutgers fell at home to George Washington in a game that went about as expected by many. The Colonials are coming off of a 2013-14 season in which they reached the NCAA tournament, and the Scarlet Knights are in the midst of a rebuilding project while also making the move to the Big Ten.

Also working against Rutgers that night was the fact that Kadeem Jack, who is the team’s best front court player, was out with a thumb injury. Jack made his 2014-15 regular season debut Sunday night and Rutgers needed him, as he accounted for 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in the Scarlet Knights’ 76-73 win over St. Francis-Brooklyn.

Jack was one of three Rutgers players to finish in double figures, with senior guard Myles Mack scoring 25 points to go along with eight steals and six rebounds to lead the way. The return of Mack helps the entire front court, as Junior Etou (12 points) and freshman D.J. Foreman can slide into supplementary roles on offense. Foreman, who played well in the loss to George Washington, scored eight points in 12 minutes off the bench Sunday night.

Rutgers doesn’t have the depth they would like, as two freshmen were declared partial qualifiers by the NCAA prior to the start of the season, and that will most likely be an issue in Big Ten play. That, along with the skill he provides, is what makes Kadeem Jack’s return so important for Rutgers moving forward.

Report: Rutgers guard Jerome Seagears unlikely to play Saturday vs. No. 14 Louisville

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Through 13 games Rutgers guard Jerome Seagears is averaging 9.5 points and 4.2 assists per game, with his assist-to-turnover ratio (2.8) being tops in the American Athletic Conference. Given his ability to handle and distribute the basketball while making a low number of mistakes, Seagears would be a good player for the Scarlet Knights to have on the floor Saturday evening when they host No. 14 Louisville.

Unfortunately for Rutgers that may not be the case, as Seagears is still recovering from a sprained ankle that prevented him from playing in their win over Temple on Tuesday night according to Jerry Carino of Gannett New Jersey.

“He tried yesterday and couldn’t go through practice,” Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan said of Seagears. “It may be in his best interest to give him a week off, because we don’t play again until next Saturday. I don’t want him to go out there practicing today and re-aggravating it and you tack on another two or three extra days. He’s made some progress, but my idea is to keep him off the ankle until next Saturday.”

In Rutgers’ 71-66 win over Temple junior Myles Mack and D’Von Campbell shared the point guard responsibilities, with Mack accounting for ten points, seven rebounds and six assists and Campbell adding four points and four assists. They’ll clearly be key players for the Scarlet Knights, who will have to to contend with a Louisville team that’s forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 25.6% of their possessions.

That figure ranks third nationally, and according to the Cardinals are the only team currently ranked in the top ten nationally in both adjusted offensive (first) and adjusted defensive (seventh) efficiency.

Rutgers junior guard Myles Mack expected to lead the way in 2013-14

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To say that the 2012-13 season wasn’t a smooth one for the Rutgers basketball program would be an understatement. Video of Mike Rice’s behavior in practices became public in the spring, resulting in his firing, the resignation of athletic director Tim Pernetti and four players deciding to transfer.

There are new leaders of both the athletic department (Julie Hermann) and basketball program now, with former Rutgers player Eddie Jordan grabbing the reins as the Scarlet Knights begin their lone season in the American Athletic Conference before moving on to the Big Ten. Jordan’s expected to be a stabilizing force for the program, but the fact of the matter is that he’ll need some help from the players who decided to remain at Rutgers.

One of those players is junior guard Myles Mack (13.6 ppg, 2.7 apg), who led the Scarlet Knights in scoring last season and is expected to do the same in 2013-14. And according to Matt Sugam of Mack’s become the team leader, albeit in a quiet “lead by example” manner.

“He leads by example,” senior forward Wally Judge said. “He comes in and he prepares just as hard as anyone else. He doesn’t look at it like ‘I’m the leading scorer. This is my team and I’m going to do this and do that.’

“He’s fitting in, but at the same time standing out. He’s a walking contradiction. I don’t know how to say it. He’s quiet, but his actions speak volumes.”

As Judge put it, Mack has “become more vocal without saying a lot.”

Rutgers has a chance to be competitive in the American thanks to the return of players such as Mack, fellow guard Jerome Seagears and forward Wally Judge, and the addition of transfers J.J. Moore (Pittsburgh) and Kerwin Okoro (Iowa State). Whether or not the Scarlet Knights make good on this depends on two areas: chemistry and stability.

Mack’s performance, both as a player and a team leader, will be one of the key factors for Rutgers in 2013-14, and in a way the Paterson, N.J. native can help shape the future of Rutgers basketball. Given the amount of talent the state’s produced over the years, it’s somewhat fitting that a native of the Garden State is being asked to lead the way.