The second year guard and the transfer of Quinnipiac fueled the crowd and launched the Scarlet Knights. Plus: 5 snacks from the season opener.
PISCATAWAY – You could see it bubbling throughout the preseason, starting with this first Rutgers basketball practice in late September: Pete Kiss wanted to show what he can do at this level.
At the season opener on Friday, Quinnipiac's second transfer was a show. He started at the Shooting Guard and scored 17 points in the 7-of-9 shoot with four assists and no sales to pass Rutgers past Fairleigh Dickinson 90-55 in front of a roiling RAC crowd of 5,521.
If Kiss had jitter after being 16 months without a game action, they did not show up. He hit Rutgers' first night shot, a 12-foot chin-up. After scarcely scoring points in the first ten minutes, the Scarlet Knights sat down in front of the student area in a spinning layer packed with gills. Kiss knew he had some moxie in his veins, and yelled a loud roar at the students who ate him.
So also his teammates. They energized the carpet under FDU. Remember, these knights are not patsies. They were selected to claim second place in the Northeast Conference, and they had a few high-profile players in striker Mike Holloway Jr. and Guard Darnell Edge.
So it was a strong statement for Kiss and Rutgers before Drexels visit on Sunday and then the first big test next Friday against St. Johns.
1. Impressive performance by Myles Johnson (4 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals). No one was quite sure what to expect from the Redshirt Freshman Center in California. He delivered in relief from Shaq Doorson. Johnson helped launch the rally in the first half with a block and a few buckets of polished post moves. And he ran well on the floor and made a lot of games. We will certainly see more of him.
2. Johnson was not the only freshman who impressed. Ron Harper Jr. seemed to be in the right positions all night, scoring 15 points in 7 out of 8 shooting with five boards and two blocks.
3. The ball distribution was excellent. Everyone will talk about how well Rutgers shot the ball from the bottom, and understandably. The Scarlet Knights have not made 12 triples since their 13 outings in George Washington in 2013. They achieved 60 percent, an almost unimaginable number for anyone who had seen this program in recent years. But that was largely due to the selfless movement of the ball, which produced open looks. They supported 22 out of 34 field goals.
4. Observe the mileage of Geo Baker. The college graduate occupied the point for the first time as a Collegian for a full game and watched the game (10 points, 7 assists, 2 turnovers plus / minus 41). But Steve Pikiell had to play him 19 minutes in the first and 32 in the night. It's going to be hard to get him off the ground when the competition picks up. His stamina is certainly tested.
5. Hard night for Montez Mathis. Maybe it was rookie freaks – Isaiah Whitehead's first game in Seton Hall was a total bankruptcy – but Mathis came off the bench and fought in every way (10 points at 3 of 11, 4 turnovers). Give him time, of course, but this winter all eyes will be on the four-star watch.
6. Basketball school now? The student performance was just great. They stood, they were loud, they valued hard-core stuff like breaking the clock. The weary Rutgers students are dying for success in a high caliber sport, and indeed they saw a well-trained team with some hope on Friday. They could only be addicted.
Writer Jerry Carino: firstname.lastname@example.org.