Rutgers falls in Mike Rice’s debut

By Eric Idelson

Rutgers dropped its season opener to Princeton in a 78-75 overtime decision on Friday night at Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton. It was Mike Rice’s debut as head coach for the Scarlet Knights.

Despite the loss, Rice was encouraged by what he saw from his new team.

“They had a fight that I liked,” said Rice.

Guard James Beatty, a senior, led the way for Rutgers with 15 points. Guards Dane Miller and Mike Poole each had 14 points. Poole, a freshman, was playing in his first ever college basketball game.

It looked like Princeton was going to run away with the game in the first half, leading by as much as 13. Senior F Jonathan Mitchell made a buzzer-beating three-pointer to pull within six.

The second half was marked by physical play. Players from both sides went down as the lead changed hands numerous times. Beatty hurt his ankle late in the second half and Miller was raked across the face while attempting a layup. No foul was called. Dan Mavraidas, Princeton’s leading scorer, also hit the floor hard getting a rebound.

Miller’s second half play sparked the Knights. With 9:45 remaining in regulation, Miller connected from outside the arc to shrink the Princeton lead to 54-51, and the Rutgers fans in the crowd erupted. Minutes later, the Knights took a 58-57 lead on a two-pointer from Miller.

Rutgers fought hard and sent the game into overtime, but was not able to produce enough offense to defeat Princeton, who went 22-9 last season with a berth in the College Basketball Invitational.

Free throws were a problem for the Knights as they only connected on 55.6 percent from the charity stripe. They were also out-rebounded 31-25.

Many hardcore Princeton fans were excited about the win. Sophomores Jon Hezghia, Katie Hsia, Adeline Brown, Amy Olivero, Kathy Qu, and Allie Kolaski were part of a group of students who painted themselves to spell out “Princeton Tigers.” They dress up for every game.

“We’re trying to resurrect Jadwin Jungle,” said Hsia. “It was a crazy fan section, so we’re trying to get that started up again.”

Despite the career-high 26-point performance from Mavraidas, the students don’t believe he is the best player on the team.

“They’re all good. It’s too hard to pick one,” said Qu. “That’s what makes our team so strong, because we have so many good players, and not just one. There’s no ‘I’ in team.”

The sophomores, who are “always expecting a good season,” were pleased with the victory.

“It’s really nice to beat a Big East team and start off the season that way,” said Kolaski. “Last season we got off to a slow start, so it was good to get that win.”

Although the Tigers played the Knights in the first ever college football game, these students don’t consider Rutgers a rival.

“I wouldn’t call them my rivals,” said Brown. “They’re more like a brother.”

Also see:

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In conference realignment craziness, a plea UConn won’t join the fray

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