Although he missed his first two shots, the true freshman led all scorers with 23 points on 5-8 threes, as Rutgers men's basketball team defeated Caldwell College, 91-56, before a crowd of 2,264 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
He also showed defensive prowess with three steals in the exhibition contest. Afterward, Rosario admitted that nerves flowed throughout his bloodstreams before tipoff.
"Before the game my hands were sweating like crazy," the Jersey City native said.
After making his first shot, Rosario felt relieved.
"I stepped out there on the court, and when you step between the lines, it's just straight business," he said. "I just looked at it as I'm in practice again and there's nobody in the gym but me and my team and the coaching staff."
For a short while, the Cougars kept the score close, even taking a brief three-point lead. However, Rosario personally carried Rutgers on his shoulders and Caldwell never threatened again.
He either scored or assisted on RU's next 18 points, with 12 of his own and three assists.
"I just went out there with a lot of enthusiasm and motivation and just positive (energy) the whole way," Rosario said.
Meanwhile, RU head coach Fred Hill emptied his bench midway through the first half, using every available player, including freshmen Gregory Echenique and Rosario, both starters, and Patrick Jackson and Christian Morris.
"What I saw was a group of guys who showed passion," Hill said. "They did a great job sharing the ball, playing together. We were able to play hard on the defensive end, press a little bit. I'm very comfortable with all of the guys on the team. I'm very happy for Mike, Gregory, Pat and Christian, who, for the first time out under the lights performed as well as they did."
That list did not include Corey Chandler, J.R. Inman and Jaron Griffin. While Hill suspended the latter two indefinitely in the summer, the sight of Chandler in street clothes surprised viewers and media personnel.
"Corey has some personal issues that he's going through and we anticipate that he'll get those things cleared away and we can't wait until we get him back," Hill said.
Hill said there is no timetable for his return.
"No, those are personal issues that he has to deal with, so when he's ready to return, we're looking forward to getting him back as soon as possible," Hill said.
After intermission, the Knights cushioned their lead with tenacious defense and a 13-4 burst. This time, Hamady N'Diaye used his 6-foot-11 frame, while senior point guard Anthony Farmer contributed offensively.
"Certainly we have the size advantage, but he played extremely well," Hill said of N'Diaye, who finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks. "He gets better every day in practice. I think we all know what his defensive capabilities are."
N'Diaye had produced one triple-double prior to last night, in high school. The incredible performance even surprised Rutgers' junior center.
"I just found out when I got out of the locker room," he said. "I kind of expected it. I came out today and played hard. I've been working really hard this offseason and this whole time with my teammates."
In 22 minutes, Farmer contributed 13 and three dishes for the Knights, who had all five starters in double figures.
"But, we're looking at the big picture, and it's about effort, enthusiasm and passion," Hill said. "I just thought in that regard, we were outstanding tonight."
Notes: Rutgers received contributions from Jackson (4 points and 3 boards) and Morris (5 points), while sophomore Mike Coburn added nine and five assists off the bench.
The Scarlet Knights open their season Friday night against Marist in the second half of a double header with the women's team.
Rosario Stars In Exhibition Game
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