PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Jonathan Mitchell scored 15 points to lead Rutgers to a 68-53 win over Fairfield in a Philadelphia Hoop Scoop Classic preliminary game Monday night.
In giving Mike Rice his first win as Rutgers coach, the Scarlet Knights (1-1) improved to 81-18 in home openers. Mike Coburn added 14 points and Dane Miller had 12 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots.Fairfield (1-1), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason favorite, got 14 points from Derek Needham and 12 from Warren Edney.Needham, the Stags' main offensive threat, shot just 5 for 20 due to dogged defense from Coburn and James Beatty.After four early ties and a lead change, Coburn hit a 3-pointer, then got a steal and layup to give the Scarlet Knights a 17-12 advantage with 10:46 left in the first half.Rutgers never trailed again as the Knights opened the second half with eight straight points for a 43-27 lead. Rutgers maintained a double-figure margin the rest of the way, with its biggest advantage at 55-38.Rice came to Rutgers after leading Robert Morris to two straight NCAA berths. He hopes to turn around a program that has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1991."I'm very excited," said Rice, whose team lost its opener at Princeton Friday. "I had jitters today. At Princeton it was a regular game, but it was exciting to be in the RAC in front of our home fans, and our guys really stepped up."The Knights shot 48.2 percent from the field (27 of 56), blocked 10 shots and hit 8 for 18 from 3-point range."Credit Rutgers, they played well, shot the ball well," Stags coach Ed Cooley said. "They played better as a team than we did. We had a bunch of imposters out there. We'll make some changes."