By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – After Rutgers had seen their once 18-point lead dwindle to one, they turned to an unlikely source to keep them from a monumental collapse. Sophomore wing Malick Kone.
The Conakry, Guinea native hit back-to-back jumpers with just over six minutes left in the game to give Rutgers a 64-59 lead over Boston University.
“No question it’s surprising, but when you watch in practice he has that talent. He has that type of scoring ability,” Rice said. “And this kid is getting more confident every single day and he’s playing with that chip on his shoulder and he’s taking what’s given to him.”
Tonight, it was the big men feeding him for his mid-range jumper. And so, Kone – who scored just 52 points last year – was the spark off the bench for Rutgers with a career-high 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
While there would be some scares down the stretch, the Scarlet Knights would hold on to defeat the Terriers 81-79 at the RAC.
“Somebody had to step up,” Kone said. “And I stepped up to take over and help the team win.”
But if both his coaches and his teammates see him do it on a daily basis in practice, how come it took until game four of his second season to emerge?
“Because I have to do it to win,” Kone said with a smile.
He also credited a pregame phone call from his mom.
“I just talked to my mom and she seemed to be happy that I was happy,” Kone said. “And she just told me something that’s secret.”
So by warm-ups, Kone was feeling like he was in for one of those special nights. An inkling he shared with his teammates.
“I always think about that every night is not going to be a good night, so when you feel like it’s going to be a good night, you tell the guys, tonight is my night, so try and play for me,” Kone said. “Tomorrow could be Myles [Mack’s] night and we’ll try to play for him.
“If it’s not my night, I’ll try to play defense and do something for the team. Rebounds, play defense, talking, or clapping on the bench to do something for the team.”
Which is what he had to do in the past. But not tonight. Tonight was Kone’s night.
And no one was more elated about that than his head coach.
“For someone who’s never complained that the play is not for him, or doesn’t complain in anything he does, he just goes out and plays for his teammates and makes winning plays,” Rice said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this kid’s performance right now.”