Rutgers Eager for Strong Finish to Season

Rutgers basketball gets its rematch with No. 19 Connecticut on Wednesday night after falling short in a sold out RAC last month. Kadeem Jack's stock continues to rise in AAC play after his initial 19-point, 11-rebound performance against the Huskies sparked a strong stretch of games.

Rutgers basketball, even in the darkest years, is usually good for one energetic upset. In the first year under coach Eddie Jordan, the closest thing to a signature win came Saturday afternoon in the 74-73 comeback win over South Florida.

Rutgers was a favorite, but overcame significant odds when trailing by 15 points in the second team. The Scarlet Knights had not overcome a double-digit deficit since out of conference play against Yale.

"It's how you play as you go in and they did things right, they had good demeanor on the floor," Jordan said. "There wasn't any hanging of the heads and other things, but they trusted what we wanted them to do. There's going to be some ups and downs in the game and they handled it pretty well."

The Scarlet Knights need to win out the regular season to avoid their first 20-loss season since 2007-08 under Fred Hill Jr. That will not be an easy task with No. 19 Connecticut and No. 15 Cincinnati closing out the season.

The Scarlet Knights put a scare into Connecticut at home during its sold-out blackout even last month. The rematch comes Wednesday night on ESPNU in Storrs, Conn.

"Bottom line, we're going to have to be better than last time," said impact forward Kadeem Jack after beating South Florida. "We need to play for 40 minutes to win."

Jack stole the show against USF and earned a fourth spot on the American weekly honor roll because of his play.

The 20 points and three blocks made a statement, but his two plays in the final 15 seconds secured a win. Jack scored the game-winning shot by displaying patience in a drive to the center of the paint.

The victory solidified when Jack contested USF's final shot as time expired.

"He took it upon himself," Jordan said. "He was accountable. One of the big plays at UCF was the drive dunk, and Kadeem probably should have been there for a shot block or taken a charge, so again, there's a lot of things you learn from losing and we won [today] because for three and a half minutes we didn't play tough enough at UCF."

Jordan got key second-half minutes from senior J.J. Moore and junior Jerome Seagears, but the same effort and physicality from his wings helped whittle down a 15-point lead.

With Rutgers looking to improve upon its last battle with UConn and star guard Shabazz Napier, Jordan will need help from Malick Kone, Junior Etou and Craig Brown.

"[Those are] guys who aren't concerned about scoring, guys who won't hang their heads," Jordan said. "We've practiced for about five, six months and those guys are always the same in practice. They don't care about their shots they don't care about missing a shot they don't care about not getting a shot; they don't argue about calls. Craig Brown, Malick, they're big with that and they're very versatile with their guard play."

Jack led Rutgers with a 19-point, 11-board performance against the Huskies in February. Seagears, who declined to speak with the media after the USF win, provided a spark off the bench in the battle against Connecticut. He scored 19 points and dished out six assists.

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