PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Shortly after learning of head coach Mike Rice’s suspension, sophomore captain Myles Mack made a vow to step it up for interim coach Dave Cox. The best way to welcome back Mike Rice at the end of 2012 would be with a unified locker room and a 9-2 record at the end of nonconference play.
In the first game with Cox running the show, Rutgers finally showed the ability to take a lead and hold onto hit. Winning by as many as 25 points in the first half, Rutgers took care of UAB 88-79 for the win.
“They wanted to make sure that they displayed a united front today,” Cox said. “They showed those who were watching, the scarlet nation, that we will play and represent Rutgers basketball and coach Rice in the appropriate fashion.”
Mack was vocal on the court and dynamic with the basketball in his hands today at the RAC. Leading Rutgers with 23 points on 6-of-9 shooting, look for Mack to be a much needed glue while Rice remains out of the program for the next two games.
“I think there was a lot more energy,” Mack said. “We just came out strong, pushed the ball, got the ball ahead and made shots.”
Rutgers (7-2) opened with tremendous energy and missed just six shot attempts in the first half. Senior Dane Miller gave the spark with two big-time dunks in the half. Leading 36-11 at the apex of the run, Rutgers showed it would have no issues getting motivated to play for Cox.
“We probably call that divine intervention,” Cox said on the hot start. “Because I certainly didn’t teach them how to shoot that well in the last two days.”
The Scarlet Knights, however, continued to show the same flaws as the game progressed. Rutgers allowed a 25-point lead to drop as low as seven in the second half. Fouls remain an issue for junior forward Wally Judge, who picked up his fourth with six minutes left in the game.
Sophomore guard Elijah Carter scored in double digits for the eighth straight game, but continues to shoot below 40 percent from the floor and committed seven turnovers.
“We have a lot to improve on, but we want to go on a run and welcome back coach Rice with a great record,” said Miller, who scored 10 points.