Game Preview: South Florida at Rutgers

Wally Judge

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Seeking a bounce back after disappointment in a 10-point loss to Cincinnati, Rutgers basketball returns to the court tonight to face South Florida. At .500 through the first four conference games, a win puts Rutgers at 3-2 in the Big East for the first time in 12 years.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – For Rutgers to take the next step, it has to win consistently as a favorite and that is the case tonight against South Florida.

The Bulls (9-6, 0-3) are the only winless team in the Big East and come to Rutgers before a brutal stretch of Big East games. In the last-place Bulls, Rutgers can get back to a winning record in Big East play and climb to as high as fourth place in the standings.

Refusing to look ahead to the toughest stretch of the schedule, beginning Saturday at Notre Dame, Rutgers coach Mike Rice has his team focused on South Florida first.

"It's South Florida," Rice said. "You start to look at ‘oh my goodness, the next four out of five are against ranked teams,' that's the way it is. That's the league. If you do that, you have a lot of sleepless nights."

Rutgers (11-4, 2-2) is coming off a 10-point home loss to No. 21 Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights have yet to lose two straight games this season and have their sights set on a rebound against the Bulls.

"My whole philosophy, when I first got here, is we didn't take things personally here," said Rice on being 3-0 after losses. "Whether it's losing streaks or getting beat 1-on-1 or getting out-rebounded, now we do. I think our players have done a tremendous job in kind of using that as motivation and that's what good teams do."

Sophomore forward Kadeem Jack is coming off back-to-back strong games in the paint and sees opportunity against USF.

Jack led Rutgers in rebounding and stayed out of foul trouble off the bench. Jack is up to six points and five boards per game off the bench this season.

"Personally, I'm just proud of my development. At the Syracuse game, I wasn't flowing on offense and just tried to focus on my rebounding and that's part of my inconsistency as a player. I need to be tougher. Last game, I realized that I just had to help this team with my energy and that's what I'm doing."


Inside the Numbers

22.8 Elijah Carter is responsible for 22.8 percent of shot attempts in the first half of the season and 22.9 percent of the Scarlet Knights' offense.

60.5 Rutgers is holding opponents to 60.5 points per game with Jerome Seagears in the starting lineup. With Seagears on the bench, Rutgers gives up 69.1 points per game.

2000 Rutgers has not been 3-2 in Big East play since the 1999-00 season.

92.5 Myles Mack overtook Carter for the Big East lead in free throw percentage, checking in with 92.5 percent.

10 Reserve forward Derrick Randall came up huge in the last matchup against South Florida, notching a career-high 10 points and five rebounds.

40 Barring a lineup change, Dane Miller is in line for his 40th straight start tonight. Forward Jonathan Mitchell was the last to hit 40 straight starts in a Rutgers uniform.

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