On September 28th, Rutgers University Men’s Basketball head coach Mike Rice rappelled 500 feet from the top of a Jersey City skyscraper to raise money for charity. Although it was a rainy day, Rice trusted that the equipment given to him would support him during his descent to level ground.
This seems to parallel the style of play that coach Rice and Rutgers (4-1) have elected to go with so far this season, trusting standout sophomores Myles Mack and Eli Carter to handle the scoring duties on offense and hopefully – lead them to the NCAA tournament. It’s been over 20 years since Rutgers has made it to the big dance, but in an unusually weak Big East, a tournament berth for RU doesn’t seem out of the question.
After dropping their first game of the season to St. Peters, the Scarlet Knights have been rolling, winning four straight games. Mack and Carter – who both call Paterson, New Jersey home – have been incredibly reliable as scorers during the four game winning streak. Carter has averaged 18 PPG thus far, including a 25-point performance in Rutgers’ most recent victory over UNC Greensboro. While Carter scored the most points of any Rutgers player in the victory, it was Mack’s crucial 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining that sealed the game for the Knights.
If Mack and Carter can continue to perform on a high level throughout the season, RU will be dangerous team. They have also improved their interior play with the addition of Kansas State transfer Wally Judge, who recorded a double-double in the Knights’ first two games of the season. Judge is the lynchpin of the defense for his ability to match the physicality of opposing centers while still be able to disrupt shots outside of the paint.
Rutgers will face their most difficult opponent yet on Saturday at 2 p.m. when they square off against Ole Miss (5-0) on the road. The Running Rebels have a high-octane offense that has only failed to score 90 points in one of their five games thus far. They rank 3rd in the country in points per game with 88.4 and 6th in rebounds per game with 45.
Although it’s still early in the season, this game should serve as a good indicator to the mettle of a young Rutgers squad that has already endured an embarrassing home loss to start the season. The Knights will need Mack and Carter to play big in Saturday’s game – and for the remainder of the season.