PISCATAWAY, N.J. – An 18-point lead evaporated to one, but Malick Kone made a pair of baskets to stabilize Rutgers with six minutes left.
And when Boston University again trimmed to three points in the last minute, Myles Mack used a Wally Judge screen and finished a reverse lay-in to extend the lead.
It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the weekend of celebration kick-started by the men’s basketball team Friday at Princeton continued as the Scarlet Knights closed out the most historic day in the school’s athletic history with an 81-79 win Tuesday at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
Kone finished with a career-high 17 points, marking the first time he reached double digits, on 8 of 10 shooting and Carter scored a team-high 20 as the Scarlet Knights capped a day highlighted by the announcement Rutgers’ athletic programs were moving to the Big Ten.
“It’s a great day for Rutgers, it’s a great day for the Rutgers community, but you have to stay focused on winning,” Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. “I don’t like everything that happened tonight, but we found a way to win.”
Seeing the 34-16 lead with 5:01 left in the first half wilt away wasn’t pleasing, but Rice took comfort in knowing the Scarlet Knights (3-1) never relinquished it.
When Boston U. (0-4) used its sharp-shooting from 3-point range to pull within 60-59 with 6:59 to play, Kone responded with a pair of jumpers to make it 64-59.
“I feel like he big men were always inside so I told (the guards) to drive and I’m going to pop out and I will take the shot,” said Kone, who said a pre-game talk with his mom helped set the tone. “In the warmup, I told my teammates tonight is going to be a great night. Just feed me in the post. I just talked to my mom and she was happy and she told me some things, but that is a secret.”
The only time Boston U. had a chance to tie it late came when D.J. Irvin (24 points) grabbed a loose ball and shot a 3-point with 4:48 to play, but he missed and Carter responded with four straight points and Austin Johnson added a basket and a free throw to put Rutgers ahead 71-63.
“It means a lot and people don’t understand it,” Rice said. “They could have folded like they did against St. Peter’s, to be honest with you. …Some guys stepped up in the huddle.”
Although the Terriers pulled within 75-73 with 23 seconds left, Rutgers went 6-for-6 from the free throw line to secure the win.