Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rutgers' domination on the boards leads to its best start since the 2008-09 season

                                Photo Credit: Geno Green

The rebound was the word for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Thursday night.

The Scarlet Knights imposed their will with 46 rebounds in a 66-59 over the DePaul Blue Demons in the Gavitt Tipoff Games at the Allstate Arena.

The domination on the boards led to multiple second chance opportunities that turned into 17 points for Rutgers as it moves to 3-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season. 

For first-year Scarlet Knights coach Steve Pikiell, the first three wins represents the first in many steps to building a new foundation.

"We have a long ways to go, but we are still trying to get these guys into the mode of rebounding consistently, which can win us more basketball games," Pikiell said. "I am happy for the guys and it has been a long time coming given we have not won a road game in awhile. It gives us a little confidence in future road games."

In any reboot, an all-around effort can provide a moral boost and no one player stood out. Instead, multiple players played a part for Rutgers, highlighted by Corey Sanders' team-high 15 points and Mike Williams' 14-point, nine-rebound performance.

"I thought Mike Williams was outstanding tonight coming off the bench," Pikiell said. "Nigel [Johnson] and Corey [Sanders] did a lot for us and are great defenders and if they keep buying into the defensive end of the floor, we have a chance to be pretty good. Each player is important and someone is going to step up every game."

Game Recap:

DePaul (1-1) started out slow as the ball movement stalled on offense as it missed its first six shots from the field and unable to penetrate into the paint as Rutgers stormed out to a 5-0 advantage.

Billy Garrett Jr. snapped the DePaul drought with two free throws 4:56 into the game. Eli Cain converted a three-point make to even the score before DePaul's bench came alive and scored the next 12 points as much Rutgers matched the total.

Garrett's 0-for-5 start from the field led to an extended rest as Chris Harrison-Docks entered off the bench. The lineup change did little to move the needle as Rutgers' 17-5 run over an 8:38 stretch helped pave the way to a 33-26 lead on DePaul after 20 minutes.

The Scarlet Knights ratcheted things to another level with a 13-2 run to start the second half and would not look back as they led by as many as 22.

Garrett Jr. struggled the entire night and fouled out with 8:24 left in the second half as he finished with five points on 1-of-11 from the field.

DePaul coach Dave Leitao knows Garrett Jr. must find a rhythm in order to be considered among the elite players in the BIG EAST as a senior.

"[Biily] and I will sit down and try to figure it out," Leitao said. "You can't be one of the top players in the BIG EAST having performances like tonight," Leitao said.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to the hardwood on Nov. 20 as Rutgers will look to go to 4-0 as it hosts Niagara at 11 a.m on BTN, while DePaul plays Milwaukee at 12:30 p.m on FS1.

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.