Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Rutgers Edges Marist in Opener; UConn, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John’s Win
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Despite a slew of cramps, poor foul shooting and a pesky opponent, Rutgers narrowly escaped with a 63-61 victory in its season opener against Marist at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
A win is a win, but this one came against a team projected to finish last in the 10-team MAAC.
Rutgers was picked 12th in the brutal 16-team Big East.
“We’re not going to blame it on cramps, we’re not going to blame it on anything other than that it was a heck of a hard fought game,” Rutgers head coach Fred Hill said. “And I’m really proud of the guys, especially young guys on the floor, that made plays down the stretch.”Rutgers set a school record with 16 blocks, eight by 6-foot-11 junior center Hamady N’DIaye.
“I don’t find anything better,” N’Diaye said with a laugh. “I can’t get a dunk every time, but when I get a block I’m always happy.”
Freshman forward Greg Echenique added a game-high 15 rebounds, 11 points and 6 blocks before leaving with a cramp in his right calf. Freshman shooting guard Mike Rosario, also bothered by cramps, led all scorers with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting, 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. That’s the most points by a Rutgers freshman since Charles Jones had 19 in 1993.
“I felt great from the beginning of the game to the end,” said Rosario. “And also, I just want to thank all the fans for coming out tonight because that’s what really got us going.”
Rutgers shot just 53 percent from the foul line, making 16-of-30. Marist was 12 of 16.
After Marist closed to within 57-56, N’Diaye made two foul shots and Mike Coburn scored on a twisting layup to make it 61-57.
“We were trying to look for ‘H’ inside, and I had a bigger guy on me and I tried to get to the rim and get fouled or get a layup and the layup came through for us,” Coburn said.
Said Hill: “Mike Coburn made huge plays down the stretch. Corey Chandler made big plays down the stretch. Hamady on defense made big plays down the stretch. Gregory Echenique, Mike Rosario. We did all the things that you needed to do to win a tough ballgame and a tight ballgame.”
Marist’s Dejuan Goodwin made it 62-59 on a bucket with 13.2 seconds left, but Anthony Farmer made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 63-59.
David Devezin scored at the buzzer for Marist.
Rutgers took a 57-51 lead on a layup and a foul shot Echenique, who then left the game and was treated by trainers.
” I think it was hot in the gym, we played long minutes and they cramped up and they got a little bit tired,” Hill said. “But you have to play through it.”
But Marist scored five straight on a three-point play by sophomore forward Lawrence Williams (team-high14 points) and a twisting layup by Devezin to cut it to 57-56.
Rosario and Chandler, who returned from an absence in Monday’s exhibition game due to “personal reasons,” paced a 16-2 run that put Rutgers ahead 48-38. Chandler finished with seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.
“Corey’s working his way back in,” Hill said. “He had some personal issues that he had to take care of. He’s taken care of those things. He worked his way back in. He certainly gave us a spark off the bench in the second half.”
Seniors JR Inman and Jaron Griffin sat on the bench in street clothes as they continue with their suspension. “They’re doing a great job,” Hill said “They’re doing everything that we’ve asked of them. That will be my decision [when they come back] and when I see that they’ve done everything that they needed to do, we’ll bring them back.”
THABEET, DYSON LEAD UCONN TO ROUT STORRS, CONN. – Juniors Hasheem Thabeet and Jerome Dyson each scored 23 points to lead No. 2 Connecticut to an 81-55 season-opening men’s basketball victory over Western Carolina Friday evening before a crowd of 9,820 at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.
Thabeet, who narrowly missed his career-high scoring total of 24, set a new career standard by grabbing 17 rebounds. Thabeet, who finished his junior campaign as the third-leading shot blocker in the nation, swatted away five Catamount offerings in the contest. He made seven of 11 field goals and was nine of 13 from the foul line.
Dyson was equally impressive in the game. He made seven of 12 from the field, including three of four attempts from three-point range. He tied for game-high honors with teammate Kemba Walker with five assists and had three steals, all while not recording a turnover.
Senior forward Jeff Adrien added 14 points and seven rebounds. He made six of seven field goal attempts, helping the Huskies make 51 percent of their shots from the field (28 of 55.)
The Huskies enjoyed a 44-18 advantage in points in the paint, while out-rebounding the Catamounts 42-31.
REYNOLDS, STOKES, CUNNINGHAM PACE VILLANOVAVILLANOVA, Pa.—Scottie Reynolds scored all 13 of his points in the second half, Corey Stokes and Dante Cunningham added 13 apiece and No. 23 Villanova had six players reach double figures en route to a season-opening 78-60 win over Albany on Friday.
Antonio Pena contributed 12 points while Reggie Redding scored 11 and Corey Fisher had 10 for the Wildcats, who won their first game of the season at The Pavilion for the 18th year in a row. It was also Villanova’s 200th career victory in 6,500-seat building.
Will Harris and Anthony Raffa scored 13 points each for Albany.
Villanova jumped out to a 24-8 lead midway through the first half and led 40-24 at the break. Albany got within 49-37 early in the second half, but Villanova pulled away as Fisher scored four points of an 8-0 Wildcat run.
The Wildcats were 22-13 and advanced to the round of the 16 in the NCAA Tournament last year before falling to eventual national champion Kansas. Albany finished 15-15 last season.
KENNEDY’S CAREER-HIGH 23 LIFTS ST. JOHN’S
NEW YORK (AP)—D.J. Kennedy had a career-high 23 points, fellow sophomore Sean Evans had his first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and St. John’s opened the season with a 73-63 victory over Long Island University on Friday night.
Kennedy, who scored 18 points twice as a freshman including once against LIU, was 8-of-14 from the field, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range. That was the best effort from behind the arc for the Red Storm, who finished 4-of-23 (17 percent).
Kyle Johnson had 23 points for the Blackbirds (0-1), who committed 18 turnovers that led to 19 points for St. John’s.
Johnson’s third 3 of the game brought LIU within eight with 5:13 to play, but Kennedy hit his last 3 of the game with 3:50 left to give the Red Storm a 66-54 lead.
Evans, who averaged 3.1 points and 2.5 rebounds as a freshman, had six rebounds in the first half as the smaller Blackbirds outrebounded St. John’s 23-18. The Red Storm turned that around in the second half to finish with a 44-40 advantage.
HAZELL LIFTS SETON HALL TO ROUTS OF ST. FRANCISIn Newark, Jeremy Hazell scored 23 points to lift Seton Hall to an 88-61 win over St. Francis (N.Y.) STix Mitchell added 17 points and Mike Davis had a career-high 13. REad more here.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.