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.
Mack, Jack Help Rutgers Rebound from Bad Loss to Top Vanderbilt
By ARTHUR WARNER-KAMSLER
NEW YORK — Rutgers’ seniors Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack did everything in their power to make sure that the Scarlet Knights came away with the win Friday night against Vanderbilt, just three days after the team’s embarrassing 18-point loss to St. Peter’s.
Both players were on the court for all 40 minutes of Rutgers’ 68-65 victory in the semifinals of the Barclays Center Classic — and were key in making sure that Rutgers bounced back.
“[The loss] motivated us a lot,” Mack said. “That loss was a bad loss for us. The next day in practice we came in really excited to practice and ready to get better and I think it led over to this game.”
Rutgers will face No. 9 Virginia in Saturday night’s championship game, while Vanderbilt will face La Salle in the consolation game. The Cavaliers beat the Explorers, 64-56.
Mack led the way for Rutgers with 21 points, eight assists, and six rebounds and was clearly the best player on the court.
“They carried us, they were big for us,” Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan said. “They are impact players for us and, you know, they are seniors and they can rest when the year is out.
Jack was no slouch either. In just his third game back from a sprained right thumb, he scored 20 points and added eight rebounds, including six on the offensive glass. His go-ahead layup with 42 seconds left proved to be the game winner.
“The St. Peter’s loss was kind of demoralizing,” Jack said. “Coming out there and having them take it to us first, so we just had to take it to them first today.”
Outside of the play of the team’s two stars, the biggest key to the Scarlet Knight victory was their effort on the offensive glass. Rutgers had 18 offensive rebounds, to Vanderbilt’s 20 defensive boards, leading to 24-second chance points.
“They were a lot more tough and physical upfront than we were and that was the difference in the game,” Vanderbilt’s head coach Kevin Stallings said.
While the win was a good one for Rutgers they still showed some serious weaknesses that could be exploited come Big Ten season. The Scarlet Knights allowed Vanderbilt, whose rotation featured five freshmen playing their first-ever road game, to shoot 48 percent from the field and 8-for-17 from 3-point range.
Rutgers was also dominated inside at times by Commodore center Damian Jones. Jones scored 23 points on just 10 shot attempts and had 13 points in the first half until he picked up his third personal foul. Jones was limited to just 28 minutes due to foul trouble but when he was one the court Rutgers had no real answer to him on the inside.
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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.