The Pirates enter Saturday unbeaten and Paradise Jam champs, but Rutgers has new-found energy with a memorable Thanksgiving of its own.
The Scarlet Knights drew first blood in the ACC Big Ten challenge with a 69-64 road win at Clemson. They also beat Vanderbilt in Brooklyn and scared No. 8 Virginia with a strong first half.
“It helps us a lot,” said head coach Eddie Jordan. “It’s a very positive atmosphere in the air right now. Usually we’re positive no matter what happens, but we have three days of practice where we work even harder and hone in on Seton Hall.”
Beating Clemson was nice, but football coach Kyle Flood is not the only person in Piscataway with a “1-0” mentality.
“It just means we won a game,” Jordan said. “We represented the conference, but it was just one game for us. It wasn’t anything more than that. … To us [St. Peter’s] is ancient history. We played 60 minutes of really good basketball in New York, and we played a pretty darn good game against Clemson.”
Jordan lauded senior guard Myles Mack for a strong three-game stretch away from home. Playing through a tooth infection, Mack averaged 12.2 points, 5.6 assists and three steals per game in the stretch.
Mack appreciates the compliments, but wants a trophy as well.
“This is a battle about in-state toughness,” Mack said on Seton Hall. “We’re rivals. We’ve had big games. We’re just out they’re fighting. Some of us may be friends off the court, but when we’re on the court, we want to say we own New Jersey. I want that trophy bad.”
Rutgers (5-3) has its x-factor back in senior captain Kadeem Jack, who averages 13.2 points and 5.4 boards since his return from thumb injury.
Jack is in his fifth and final year at Rutgers, and sees a new level of unity after the recent stretch.
“We want to ride this streak all the way to the end of the season,” Jack said. “I want to take what happened and make that the nucleus of our team. … It’s about playing hard and not giving up. If we go out there and run our stuff, we can compete with anyone. We can’t turn the ball over. I feel as though we can do that a lot this year. We’re a close-knit team going out there.”