By Jon Rothstein
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1. OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY
In early December it looked like this Rutgers team would struggle to score 60 points on a nightly basis. Now, a great deal of what the Scarlet Knights do on offense is regularly fluid and succinct. Thanks to the maturation of their three freshman guards and their overall improved outside shooting as a team, Mike Rice’s squad is making noticeable strides putting the ball in the basket. In Monday night’s 65-58 win over Notre Dame, Rutgers shot 15-28 from the floor in the first half and scored 39 points. Now, we’ll find out if they can maintain the same level of execution throughout the rest of the Big East schedule.
2. ELI’S EDGE
He wasn’t thought to be the likeliest member of the Scarlet Knights’ freshman class that would make an immediate impact — but Eli Carter has been the most productive first-year player so far this season for Rutgers. The combo guard has emerged as a legitimate nightly scoring threat in the Big East and scored 13 points in the win over Notre Dame, combining a lethal in between game with more than capable 3-point range. If Carter keeps evolving, he’ll be an All-Big East player in two seasons.
3. DANE’S DRIVE
Right from the moment his team came out for warmups against Notre Dame, Dane Miller was acting like something he didn’t always seem capable of being during his Rutgers career — a leader. The junior small forward has displayed a vocal presence recently for the young Scarlet Knights and is finally coming into his own. A freak athlete and underrated shot blocker, Miller’s intangibles are a major reason why Rutgers has been a bit of a surprise this season.
4. UNSUNG PRESENCE
Austin Johnson may not be the focal point on an opponent’s scouting report when they play Rutgers but the junior big man proved against Notre Dame he is more than capable offensively. Finishing in the paint and showing off a soft baby hook, Johnson scored 10 points against the Irish and could find a niche as a legitimate interior scoring threat off the bench for the Scarlet Knights.
5. SHARP SCOTT
First he transferred. Then he redshirted. Then he tore his ACL and redshirted again — but through it all, Scott Martin has remained a warrior. Notre Dame’s senior forward continues to be the heart and soul for this Irish team and his desire was on full display against Rutgers. Finding seams in the defense and scoring in the mid range, Martin did what winners do and competed for every second he was on the floor.
BY THE NUMBERS
What Rutgers shot from the floor in the first half against Notre Dame.
The number of points, rebounds, blocks, and steals for Rutgers junior Dane Miller.
9 and 9
The number of points and rebounds for Notre Dame big man Jack Cooley.
THEY SAID IT
“To grind out a game like this is another sign that we’re heading in the right direction,” Rutgers coach Mike Rice on the win over Notre Dame.
“I’ve been here a bunch of times and it’s always the same story. Rutgers is always very comfortable in the RAC,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey on the RAC.
Your thoughts from Rutgers-Notre Dame? Be heard in the comments below…