Notebook: Rutgers Prepares for Game at Garden

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — The Rutgers basketball team got back on track with an 81-66 victory Monday over Monmouth. Facing Stony Brook Saturday, head coach Mike Rice and junior forward Dane Miller spoke about another opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden and an increased workload in practice.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — It might not be a Big East game and the conference tournament may still be three months away. But to junior forward Dane Miller, a game at Madison Square Garden is still a game at Madison Square Garden.

"I'm just happy to go back to the Garden," Miller said. "Just to get there and play with your teammates is something not a lot of people get to do. I don't think it matters who you play, because it's the Garden. When you have an opportunity to play at the Garden, you just have to play hard."

Rutgers (5-5) has not played at Madison Square Garden since a close call by the referees ended its Big East tournament run with a two-point loss to St. John's in the second round.

"I think it's a nice trip, especially for our New York guys," said head coach Mike Rice. "It gets us a chance to play at Madison Square Garden, where we play our conference tournament. You always like to do that, especially young teams [so that they] are not thinking about their memories of Madison Square Garden. They're thinking about business. There are a lot of different reasons why we do it and it's a good experience for our players."

Practicing Hard

Rutgers is into the reading days portion of its academic schedule, transitioning to final exams next week. That means no more classes and more time to spent at the Louis Brown Athletic Center practicing and putting in work.

"In practice, we're just doing a lot of stuff and working harder than ever," Miller said. "We're trying to really perfect everything to just become a better team.

"It allows us to focus more on our goal and our task, on how we want everything done. We're spending more time at the RAC and that makes us better."

Reading days, which are meant to be used for studying and writing papers, also means a lot more time spent on school-work and with tutors, Rice said.

The biggest advantage for winter sports teams comes after exams wrap up on Dec. 23.

"These guys have a lot of stuff on their minds," Rice said. "When you get them for that two and half, three weeks, hopefully that's when we'll see a lot of development. You can go two-a-days, all they have to worry about is improving. So I'm interested to see how much we can get done in that time period."

An Improving Jumper

Sophomore Mike Poole already has more made three-pointers this year than all of his freshman season.

Poole knocked down two against Monmouth, but has more work to do before he can be considered a long-range threat, Rice said.

"I'm not convinced he's a three-point shooter yet," he said. "But he works extremely hard at attacking his weaknesses and he's becoming a more consistent shooter. I don't know if it's his strength yet, but it's not a weakness right now. Again, if all of my players attacked their weaknesses like Mike did, we would have a very successful year."

Health Updates

Forwards Kadeem Jack (foot) and Malick Kone (knee) are both healing well from their surgeries, Rice said.

Jack broke is foot before the season started and will be re-evaluated to resume basketball activities next week. He remains on-schedule for a return midway through the Big East season.

"All I know is I watched him drop step and dunk yesterday on the far court and our trainer sprinting over to him yelling that it's not time to do that yet," Rice said. " … The next thing is individual work; shooting, jumping, jump hooks. All the things he can do without going into competition."

Kone had arthroscopic surgery on his knee last week and will be back sometime in January barring any changes.

"Malick's surgery went well," Rice said. "He's rehabbing twice a day. He's progressing every day. He's day-to-day based on how quickly he can come back. Now it's just a matter of how strong he can make that knee and endure some of the pain that goes along with it.


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