The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-2) captured another non-conference victory against George Washington (4-6), but showcased quite a few flaws in the process.
Rutgers has relied heavily on their two top scorers – Myles Mack and Eli Carter – since the beginning of the season. So far this strategy has been effective, as the Knights have found themselves with a 6-2 record. However, in Tuesday nights win Rutgers inability to play a complete game was on full display.
With only three minutes remaining in the first half, Rutgers led by 15, but surrendered a late run by the Colonials that closed the gap to seven at halftime. This offensive onslaught continued after the intermission as GW secured a 49-48 lead. Rutgers was getting beat on the glass and often times appeared lost on the offensive side of the ball.
Forward Wally Judge – who had shown promise in some early games – was a lost cause on the evening after getting himself in early foul trouble. Without Judge to facilitate under the basket, the Scarlet Knights struggled against the Colonials’ big men. GW center Isiah Armwood (8-13 FG, 18 Pts, 7 Reb, 4 Blk) was a force on both sides of the ball all night.
Luckily for the Knights, scoring-machine Eli Carter flushed down 19 points of his own and Myles Mack (5-8 FG, 13 Pts) hit two crucial late free throws to seal the a 68-65 victory. It was a win for Rutgers – but it certainly wasn’t pretty. A team that plays in a power conference like the Big East shouldn’t be sweating out their nonconference games in the manner that RU has early on. For any real success in the Big East – and beyond – Rutgers will need to play with far more consistency than they have displayed through their first eight games of the season.
However, a win is a win, and 6-2 Rutgers still has three non-conference games remaining to build up some confidence for when they face their first Big East opponent — #4 Syracuse (8-0) at the Carrier Dome on January 2nd. Based on how Rutgers has played against inferior opponents, it would be a shock if this matchup was even close. ‘Cuse is undefeated and hasn’t won a game by less than a nine point margin thus far — most recently eviscerating Monmouth University to the tune of 108-56. If Rutgers wishes to have any chance of victory against SU, head coach Mike Rice needs to get the Knights playing for a full 40 minutes.