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Rutgers men's basketball kicks off anticipated season against Columbia

The Rutgers men's basketball team looks to begin its journey to the NCAA Tournament when the team hosts Columbia to begin the 2022-23 season.  – Photo by Rutgers Men’s Basketball / Twitter

The Rutgers men’s basketball team will open up its season against Columbia tonight. The Scarlet Knights will open up a pivotal season in which they will try to make the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row for the first time in school history.

Rutgers had an up-and-down 2021-22 season that ultimately saw the program make the First Four of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The Knights’ time in the tournament was short-lived as they lost in double overtime to Notre Dame 89-87 in the First Four.

On the other side, the Lions struggled during the 2021-22 season, finishing last in the Ivy League with a 4-22 record overall and a 1-13 conference record. Head Coach Jim Engles returns for his seventh season with Columbia. 

The Lions' leading scorer from last year, forward Ike Nweke, transferred to Quinnipiac, but second-leading scorer Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa returns for 2022-23. Rubio De La Rosa also led the team with 31 steals and 82 assists and was second on the team with 101 rebounds.

Ahead of the season opener, Rutgers returns three starters in senior guard Paul Mulcahy, fifth-year senior guard Caleb McConnell and junior center Clifford Omoruyi.

Omoruyi was selected to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team and showed why in the Knights’ exhibition match against Fairfield on October 30. Omoruyi led the team with 19 points while shooting 8-13 from the field. He also had nine rebounds. In the game, Omoruyi showed improved touch inside, a bigger commitment on the defensive end and a willingness to shoot from the outside.

Mulcahy also played well in the exhibition game. He led the team with 10 assists and also chipped in 7 points and six rebounds. Mulcahy will serve as the primary point guard this season, and expect him to attempt at least one alley-oop to Omoruyi during the game. McConnell did not play in the exhibition match due to a tweaked knee.

Loyola Maryland transfer and senior guard Cam Spencer will most likely get the start at shooting guard. Spencer figures to be the Knights’ best three-point shooter. Against the Stags, he chipped in with 10 points.

Freshman guard Derek Simpson, freshman forward Antwone Woolfolk and freshman forward Antonio Chol may be in line to get some minutes against Columbia, as well. Simpson had a strong performance during the exhibition game scoring 12 points and shooting 5-for-7 from the field.

The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+ and 88.7 WRSU-FM as Rutgers looks to start the regular season with a win.

For more updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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