Looking back on the tape from his team’s season opening loss to Princeton, Rutgers head coach Mike Rice was not pleased.
“Defensive effort against Princeton, I thought our energy was good. When we went back and watched the film, the defense was – to be honest with you – brutal. Guys (were) getting split, guys (were) not getting in the proper position.” said Rice.
In last night’s home opener, the defense effort was much better for Rutgers. In fact, it was the effort on that side of the floor that carried the Scarlet Knights to their first win of the season. It was the first win for Mike Rice as the head coach.
While Jonathan Mitchell led all scorers with 15 points for Rutgers, Mike Coburn added 14. It was Coburn’s defense that highlighted the night. Coburn and James Beatty combined to lock down Fairfield’s big scorer, Derek Needham. Needham was held to 14 points on 5-of-20 shooting.
Dane Miller joined Mitchell and Coburn as the three Scarlet Knights in double digit scoring, leading to Rutgers 68-53 win.
For Rutgers to succeed this season, defense is going to be a priority. The Knights lack size and use a three guard starting lineup. Defense and good shot selection will need to be consistent. Last night, Rutgers showed the ability to do both.
Defensively, Rutgers held Fairfield to 29.1% shooting, including 23.1% in the second half. Fairfield was just 6-of-23 from behind the 3-point arc.
The Scarlet Knights shot 48.2% from the field and 44.4% from behind the arc. Mitchell was particularly on his shooting game, nailing three of four three poitn attempts.
Tough defense will win games. Rutgers grabbed seven steals and blocked ten Fairfield shots last night, including five blocks by Dane Miller. If Rutgers can continue to play hard nosed in your face defense, they may just tally a few more wins then expected this season.
Intensity is something first year head coach Mike Rice brings to his teams. That intesity was evident on the defense end of the floor last night and the result was the first win of the Mike Rice era at Rutgers.