By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – The best part about freshmen is that they become sophomores. The worst part is when those sophomores still look like freshmen, which was the case in Rutgers’ season opening debacle to St. Peter’s.
“The negative characteristics of last year’s team reared it’s ugly head,” head coach Mike Rice said. “Whether it was selfish plays, plays where we need to execute, and guys trying to take it upon themselves to do something. Softness, where kind of you need a stop. Something bad happened on the offensive end, you can’t let it affect the way you defend and we certainly did that.”
It seemed as if nothing could go right on the offensive end. The Scarlet Knights had almost as many turnovers (18) as they did field goals (19) in the 56-52 loss.
“Just sloppy. Lackadaisical,” Wally Judge said of the turnovers. “Thought it was going to be easy and I know that a lot of the guys here are older, but no matter who we play, people want to win at this level.
“You don’t roll over for supposedly the better team. You compete to win. And we thought that we were the better team and we let it slip away.”
Letting a game out of their grasp like they did so many times last season. But it wasn’t supposed to happen this season. Not with those seven freshmen who were supposed to learn from their growing pains and show an offseason growth spurt.
That wasn’t the case tonight. The three sophomore guards – Eli Carter, Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears – combined for nine of those 18 turnovers. Neither sophomore forward Kadeem Jack or Derrick Randall scored.
And now that they’re sophomores, the way Rice will treat them going forward will change. Sort of like their play was supposed to.
“It changes a little bit, yeah,” Rice said. “There will be some bench time probably. That’s always one of the things. If you can’t go in an run a play that we talked about running in the huddle, than you’re not with us and that’s some of the things that we’ll have to find. Who’s with us? And we’ll start one by one with each and every individual and it’ll start tomorrow morning.“
But the problem hasn’t been practices. Rice praised the difference – in a positive way – in their approach and execution.
“I didn’t see this in practice. I saw more mature,” Rice said. That’s what’s kind of shocking, but again, it is what it is. You can lay down and sat the season’s over or are you going to come back swinging tomorrow morning and I’m very interested to see what our guys do at tomorrow’s practice.”
So, will this be a wake up call.
“We can only determine that by how the team responds,” Judge said. “First game of the season, its either up hill form here or we just explode from the inside out. Either we respond the right way or we don’t.”
Hopefully it won’t be like freshmen.