Rutgers Wins Sloppy to Open 2011-12 Season

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — The Rutgers basketball team started its 2011-12 season sluggishly, but overcame early miscues with a slightly stronger second half to beat Dartmouth, 62-56 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Leading by one at the half, the Scarlet Knights scored 10 of the first 12 points out of the break to win the season-opener.

Rutgers did not go on a big run. No scorer broke out with a big day. But the Scarlet Knights led Dartmouth for all but one minute of action in the season-opener and finished with a 62-56 victory.

Nothing about the -point win over an opponent with five victories over last season was pretty. But after losing the season-opener last season and three seniors at the end of the year, a win is a win.

"This was the same type of game," Rice said in comparison to last year's opener. "Same effort, but were so sloppy in the details of the game. But it's always better to win than to lose and hopefully we can learn and this will help us in the future."

Badly needing a big play, the freshman-to-freshman connection provided one. On a fast break, Myles Mack found Elijah Carter on an open lay-up that put Rutgers ahead by eight points with four to play.

An eight-point lead proved insurmountable in an offensively-challenged game for both sides and Rutgers rode out the game from there.

Junior Dane Miller, who sat out Sunday's exhibition with a suspension, led Rutgers in scoring and rebounding with 12 and six respectively.

Rice toyed with a deep rotation in the game. With the exception of Miller, no player exceeded 30 minutes on the court. Eight players saw double-digit minutes.

"The chemistry was a little off with different people being subbed in and subbed out, but at some point in the game we caught on to it," Miller said. "We have to keep our energy."

Behind Miller, Carter, Mack and sophomore forward Gilvydas Biruta scored nine apiece. Junior Austin Johnson rounded out the starting five. He scored logged four points and three boards in 18 minutes.

Sloppy plays and miscommunication by the Scarlet Knights kept the first half close. Rice used subs liberally in the first half, working in 10 players in the first six minutes.

Struggling to find any rhythm in the half, Mack and Miller scored often enough to keep Rutgers in the lead, though a late flurry by Dartmouth cut the lead to one point at the half.

"I breathed for about five minutes and then I talked about being casual and careless," Rice said about halftime.

Forward Malick Kone emerged as a bright-spot off the bench in the first half. Moving to power forward less than a week ago, the 6-foot-5 freshman hit three field goals and grabbed two rebounds in the half.

Kone finished with eight points in 17 minutes.

"It was shocking, to be honest with you," Rice said of Kone. "He was a three-man two weeks ago ... Two games now that, I don't know if we win either game without Malick Kone. If you had told me that a month ago, I would have laughed."

The Scarlet Knights (1-0) face a step up in competition Tuesday with plenty to work on from tonight's season opener. Rutgers plays Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., before returning home Thursday to play Sacred Heart.

"I hope these guys learn from their mistakes," Rice said. "They had no idea who Dartmouth was and the ability their players had and how good their coaching is. You can't take anybody lightly."

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