MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Four players scored in double figures as Rutgers (12-20) defeated USF (12-20), 72-68, in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference Championship at the FedEx Forum on Wednesday night. Junior forward Kadeem Jack (Queens, N.Y.) totaled a team-high 18 points.
Senior forward Wally Judge (Washington, D.C.) tallied his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Myles Mack (Paterson, N.J.) and senior guard J.J. Moore (Brentwood, N.Y.) also scored in double figures with 16 and 13 points, respectively. Moore reached the 1,000 career points plateau, finishing the game with 1,002.
The Scarlet Knights outrebounded the Bulls, 34 to 31, and made 24-of-30 (80.0 percent) of their shots from the charity stripe.
Mack scored the first two buckets of the game for RU, including a 3-pointer, and the Scarlet Knights held a 5-2 lead at the 18:22 mark in the opening half.
Later, after a layup by Judge, Rutgers led 7-4. The Bulls scored four unanswered, and took their first lead of the game, 8-7, with 16:36 on the clock.
RU regained the advantage and later pushed its lead to 12-10 after Mack drained another triple with 15:35 remaining. USF went on another 4-0 run, taking a 14-12 edge at the 14:22 mark.
Four-straight points from Jack, including a dunk, put the Scarlet Knights back on top, 16-14. The Bulls took their largest lead of the game after putting together a 5-0 run to go on top, 19-16, with 9:45 to go in the half.
Down 21-18, RU answered. Junior guard Malick Kone (Conakry, Guinea) converted on a drive in the lane, laying it in with his left hand before freshman forward Junior Etou (Republic of Congo) sunk a baseline jumper to take the 22-21 lead. A bucket from Kone and steal and lay-in by Moore extended Rutgers’ run to 8-0 and the Scarlet Knights led 26-21 at the 6:28 mark.
Mack gave Rutgers a six point advantage (35-29) with another 3-point bucket with 3:09 to go in the half. The Scarlet Knights kept the lead for the remainder of the first, and took a 40-37 edge into the break. Judge scored eight of the squad’s final 13 points of the half.
Coming out of the midpoint, the Scarlet Knights pushed their lead to nine, 50-41, with 16:16 remaining. Judge scored five of the team’s first 10 points. Rutgers led by as many as 12 points (56-44) with 11:49 to go.
USF answered and went on an 11-1 run to trim RU’s lead to 59-58 with 6:28 remaining. Jack then scored four-straight points, including two free throws, and gave the Scarlet Knights a 63-58 advantage with 4:03 on the clock. The Bulls made it close late, cutting the lead to two on multiple occasions. Leading 70-68 with six seconds left, RU missed two free throws, but Moore came up with a huge offensive rebound before draining two free throws of his own to secure the win.
The Scarlet Knights advance to face the No. 2 seed and No. 5-ranked Louisville tomorrow in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. EST on ESPNU.
- Rutgers defeated USF for the third time this season. The last two times Rutgers defeated an opponent three times in one season, Eddie Jordan was on staff. In 1988-89, RU completed the trifecta versus St. Bonaventure when Jordan was an assistant under Bob Wenzel. In 1984-85, the Scarlet Knights downed Duquesne three times when Jordan was a volunteer assistant under Tom Young.
- Senior J.J. Moore scored 13 points, giving him 1,002 for his career. It was his 18th double-figure scoring game of the season and 41st of his career.
- Moore played a career-high 36 minutes. His previous high was 35 on two occasions.
- Redshirt junior Kadeem Jack totaled a team-high 18 points, his 27th double-digit scoring game of the season and 32nd of his career.
- Redshirt senior Wally Judge finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season and ninth of his career. It was his most points vs. an AAC opponent this season.
- Judge scored 15 points, his 11th double-figure scoring game of the season and 29th of his career.
- Junior guard Myles Mack posted 16 points, his 26th double-figure scoring game of the season and 64th of his career.
- Mack moved into 20th on RU’s career scoring list, passing Larry Gordon (1951-54). He now has 1,220 career points and is 11 shy of Kevin Black (1979-83), who has 1,231.
- Moore tied his career-high with two blocks. He also did it vs. SMU on Feb. 14, 2014.
- Jack threw down a dunk in the first half, his team-high 27th of the season.
- Eddie Jordan went with the starting lineup of forward Junior Etou, forward Kadeem Jack, forward Wally Judge, guard Myles Mack, guard J.J. Moore for the 16th this season.
- Rutgers improved to 10-5 all-time against USF.