When the Rutgers men’s team take the court Tuesday afternoon, the national expectations are significantly lower in year one. And that makes Rutgers that much hungrier.
“We’re going to be prepared,” said head coach Eddie Jordan Sunday after beating Monmouth. “… We were picked to be last, and we proved ourselves last year. Let’s see if we can prove ourselves this year.”
Rutgers (8-5) escaped Monmouth 59-58 Sunday after a clutch 5.6 seconds from captain Myles Mack. An underdog going into tipoff against the Hawks, any road win felt like momentum.
“It’s great, man,” Mack said. “It gives our team a lot of confidence. We need a lot of confidence from everybody. Going into the Big Ten, it’s a great thing to get this win.”
The victory boosted the confidence of guard Bishop Daniels as well. Daniels played 23 minutes off the bench with 12 points and five assists.
Daniels returned to action from injury in mid-December, and remains a spark off the bench after Mike Williams stepped into a starting role.
“It gives us confidence,” Daniels said on recent road victories. “We realize that we can play with the best and we can do what we do. As long as we trust in our team and our coaches, we’ll be all right.”
“We’ve got to be more consistent,” Daniels said. “Offensive and defensive wise, we’ve got to be the best defensive team in the conference. Offensively, trust in what we’re trying to do. As a team, just come together.
“It’s no surprise we’ve been working for this since the beginning of the season. All we’ve got to do is get better every day and come into conference play stronger than we ever have [been].”
Rutgers practiced Monday with the focus on film and mental preparation for Northwestern.
“Film is important,” said Mack, who led Rutgers with 13.8 points per game in non-conference play. “We’ve got to know what everybody does percentage-wise, transition-wise and whatever the case may be. We have to watch a lot of film and prepare very good in practice.”
Voted dead last in preseason Big Ten polls, Rutgers gets its first chance to prove outsiders wrong against the Wildcats. After a last-place preseason projection in the American, Jordan led Rutgers to a seventh-place finish in his first year.