Certainly, Rutgers isn't filled with talent, but the sustained energy, ball movement and defensive switches were enough to breed some level of optimism for the upcoming season.
Rutgers beat McGill University 80-68 in an exhibition in front of a few hundred folks at the Rutgers Athletic Center on Monday as Dane Miller scored 19 points and added 12 rebounds and Jonathan Mitchell had 16 points.
Here are some observations:
- After an exhibition game, it is exciting to know Rutgers looked like a better coached team than a year ago.
Rice was up the whole game, with incredible passion in explaining and coaching guys during play and timeouts. He is a hoot to watch on the bench since he never sits.
- The energy is much higher than year's past, and it is starts with coach Mike Rice. He rotated 10 players, and that included walk-on Charlie Gigoglioso, and no one was playing for extended time.
- The substitutions are fast and furious, with Rice subbing at seemingly every stoppage. Miller compared it to hockey line changes.
- There is switching on nearly every screen, so communication is pivotal.
- Center Austin Johnson was more comfortable trying to score low. Granted, McGill's big man was 6-foot-8, 220-pound Greg Gause, but Johnson still was forceful going to the basket.
- Rutgers power forward Jonathan Mitchell didn't settle for jumpers. He was aggressive in driving the lane and was able to finish several times.
- Freshman Gilvydas Biruta has a very good feel for the game. He makes the right passes, getting guys the ball in scoring positions and also picking the open guy.
- When McGill went to a 2-3 zone, Rutgers attacked it well when center Robert Lumpkins went to the high post, caught the ball and found an open Austin Carroll on the perimeter.
On another possession Mitchell caught the ball in the high post, passed on the perimeter to Mike Coburn, who swung it to Austin Carroll, who found Mitchell cutting to the basket for a lay-in.
- Rotations on defense were much better, and with urgency. Even when Rutgers didn't make them at the right time or were slow, the understanding was present.
- The lack of an inside post player will cause trouble against bigger teams, and when the outside shots don't go in. Rutgers had a dry spell in the first half, and couldn't get to the foul line to help stem the tide.
- Freshman guard Mike Poole needs to get bigger, especially in the upper body, but he moves his feet well on defense.
- Senior point guard James Beatty did not shoot the ball well. He was 2 of 7 from the field, and didn't look for his shot much in the second half.