Johnson's first double-double leads Rutgers past Maine 70-55
- No. 1 Michigan State to be tested early
- Defending champ UVa looks to fill holes
- No, 4 Duke expects balanced talent
- High expectations for No. 5 Louisville
- Deep No. 7 Maryland has high hopes
By MATT SUGAM
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) As the year is coming to a close and conference play restarting, Myles Johnson is beginning to round into form. The freshman had a career-high in points and rebounds with 10 each for his first career double-double to lead Rutgers past Maine 70-55 on Saturday.
"Playing in the games, it was definitely a learning experience because I redshirted last year," Johnson said. "So it's definitely been a stepping stone, and I think now I'm just trying to get it."
Maine (2-12) led most of the first half, including by double-digits. Rutgers (7-5) took its first lead since 2-0 thanks to a Caleb McConnell 3-pointer to make it 28-27 with 1:15 before the break. Rutgers would go into halftime leading 30-27, and lead by as much as 18 in the second half.
"Especially now that it's the break, campus is dead, so it's just us so we have to bring our own energy, start the game a little bit better," Johnson said. "By the time the second half came, we had energy and picked it up and played hard."
Geo Baker had nine points and nine assists while Eugene Omoruyi added 17 points for Rutgers. McConnell made three 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 14 points.
"The message remains the same and we have to keep our heads up. We took a step forward today and I thought we played well for 30-32 minutes. But we have to figure it out," Maine coach Richard Barron said.
Maine: Under the tutelage of first-year coach Barron, who was Maine's women's coach the past six seasons, the Black Bears feature players from 12 countries and five continents.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights will return to Big Ten Conference play, where they are 0-2 after opening up against two of the top teams in the conference in No. 8 Michigan State and No. 15 Wisconsin.
Rutgers is 4-0 vs. Maine in a series dating back to 1924. Coach Steve Pikiell was 17-7 vs. Maine while at Stony Brook from 2005-2016.
HE SAID IT
Maine coach Richard Barron: "I have to do a better job of calling timeouts to stop those runs. They don't seem to happen in 30 seconds, it almost feels like death by a 1,000 cuts. I do feel like our team will remain optimistic and keep working to improve. As Rutgers gets into Big Ten play, I hope this game helps them prepare for what they're going to see."
Maine: At Brown on Wednesday.
Rutgers: Host Maryland on Saturday.
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Updated December 29, 2018