How does Kadeem Jack respond to punishment and a spot on the bench?
The senior captain played his best game of the season, and helped Rutgers make history with its first win in Big Ten Conference play.
Jack clinched a 50-46 win over Penn State when he rebounded a missed three-pointer and made it a two-possession game in the final 30 seconds.
“When he’s high motor, we know what he can do,” said head coach Eddie Jordan on Jack’s 12-point, 11-rebound game. “This wasn’t a terrific game for him and he still gets 12 and 11. … His effort, his extension going for offensive rebounds, his knack to get offensive rebounds, just effort, effort and want to play for a high motor and that’s what he did.”
Head coach Eddie Jordan removed Jack from the starting lineup against Northwestern because of tardiness to a team breakfast. Jack, who admitted that the punishment fit the crime, said it motivated him for a better showing against the Nittany Lions.
“I think it was real big just thinking about the mistakes I made last game,” Jack said. “I felt like I had to just come out here and play really hard. Truthfully, I probably deserved a little bit more (punishment), but coach Jordan took it easy on me and I kind of appreciated that. I came back out strong and very hard.”
Rutgers (9-6, 1-1) never trailed against Penn State (12-3, 0-2) but almost blew an 11-point halftime lead with a weak offensive second half.
Penn State cut the lead to one possession multiple times, but freshman guard Mike Williams’ deep three-pointer with 5:44 to play put the Scarlet Knights in the driver’s seat.
“I was like, ‘thank God,’” said Williams, who scored five points. “I knew it was going to be good, but when I saw the ball go through the net, I realized it was OK. I heard everybody jump up and was yelling. I knew we were going to win the game after that. The momentum changed after that shot.”
Williams did not impress on the score sheet, but his role defensively was a harbinger for victory. Williams primarily matched up with PSU’s D.J. Newbill, who averaged 21 points per game heading into tip-off.
Newbill scored 14 on 4-of-17 shooting, including the final miss of the game for Penn State.
The win marks the first in men’s basketball history in Big Ten conference play and comes after a rough home loss to Northwestern.
“We practiced every day,” said guard Bishop Daniels, who scored eight points off the bench. “We got in the gym as a team and made sure we tweaked a lot of things and got things right. When we came out today, we knew what to do.”