With an inspiring and symbiotic defensive effort, and by spreading out the offensive responsibility, the Scarlet Knights' young basketball season is building the same type of energy coach Mike Rice demands from his players.
Rutgers held Miami to 29.2 percent shooting from the field, had a rebounding edge against a bigger, more athletic team, and finished a game off like a group of seasoned veterans en route to a 61-45 win in front of 4,753 fans at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
Dane Miller said the players ran into the locker room after the game like "they we won the Super Bowl, or the national championship," so the next step is getting the Scarlet Knights ready for Tuesday's home contest with Norfolk State.
"They don't know what the feeling was. It's called pride," Rice said. "It's pride when you win. It's pride sticking your chest out. It's pride when you laugh and you're hugging. That's what they haven't felt."
It is the fewest points Rutgers (2-1) allowed against an Atlantic Coast Conference school since a 50-45 win against Maryland on Feb. 19, 1941.
On Thursday, Rice said he was curious to see how Rutgers played against the Hurricanes (2-2), who boasted 6-foot-10, 300-pound center Reggie Johnson as well as athletic guards Duran Scott and Malcolm Grand.
The trio were averaging 43 points per game, but scored 20 against the Scarlet Knights. So, what did Rice learn?
"They are better teammates than I thought they were," Rice said. "It's not, ‘Are we going to support each other?' But are they going to be there in help? Are they going to communicate switches. Are they going to do all the little details that my staff and I demand? I found out their not bad."
Rutgers fronted Johnson in the low post and often double teamed him when he caught the ball near the basket. He finished with 12 point and 14 rebounds, but was 4 of 10 from the field and turned the ball over twice.
Scott was 2 of 7 from the field and had five points while Grant was 1 of 8 for three points. He also turned the ball over seven times. The Hurricanes had 17 turnovers and just five assists.
" I'm more excited because we played as a team," Miller said. "Guys were giving up their bodies, were rebounding, charges, blocked shots."
Included in Johnson's total was a jump hook to end a two minute scoring drought and give Rutgers a 46-35 lead with 6:35 to play.
In fact, one of the most impressive elements to Rutgers' best non-conference win since the Gary Waters era was closing Miami out.
After stretching a four-point halftime lead to 31-24 with 15:44 remaining, Miami got no closer. And it was Rutgers who turned a nine-point lead with three minutes to play into a 61-43 advantage with a minute to play with strong defense leading to easy baskets.
"It's a great feeling," Austin Johnson said. "It's amazing."