Rutgers trounces Central Connecticut, hands Steve Pikiell 200th win
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(AP) Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell had good reason for being unable to answer questions about winning his 200th game.
“I didn’t know about that,” said Pikiell after Rutgers beat Central Connecticut 79-37 on Tuesday night. “I’m just worried about the next one.”
The next one is at Stony Brook, where Pikiell spent his previous 11 seasons and led the Seawolves to the 2016 NCAA Tournament. He’s not getting nostalgic about it.
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about those things,” he said. “I want to start breaking down tape and get these guys ready to go. I’m just proud we’re getting better and we had good signs moving forward for us today.”
Nigel Johnson scored 16 points and Corey Sanders had 14 points and five steals for the Scarlet Knights (8-1), who won by their largest margin over a Division I team in 11 seasons. Deshawn Freeman shot 6 for 6 for 12 points and had seven rebounds, while C.J. Gettys added 10 points.
Austin Nehls had nine points for the Blue Devils (3-5), who have lost five of their last six.
It was tied at 6-6 before the Scarlet Knights scored five straight to take the lead for good. The score was 42-21 at halftime and Rutgers continued to build on its advantage, closing with a 24-4 run over the final nine minutes.
“This is going to be a tough one to take lessons from,” said Blue Devils coach Donyell Marshall, who was a player at UConn when Pikiell was a Huskies assistant. “(Rutgers) has learned that they are tired of losing. They are tired of people talking about Rutgers basketball in a negative way and they are doing something about it. Until we learn to do something about it, we are going to continue to be that way.”
Central Connecticut: The Blue Devils had their lowest scoring game of the season along with their lowest scoring first and second halves after shooting 25 percent overall (14 of 56) and committing 22 turnovers.
Rutgers: The Knights shot a season-high 64.8 percent (35 of 54) and had a season best 24 assists. It was their highest assist total since getting 27 against UMBC on Nov. 28, 2011. Gettys hit his first five shots before missing, snapping a string of 15 consecutive made baskets. The margin of victory equaled Rutgers’ largest since beating Maryland Eastern Shore 92-50 on Dec. 7, 2005.
It was the first time Rutgers held a team under 40 points since limiting Pitt to 39 on Jan. 11, 2012. Sanders felt Rutgers early runs started at the defensive end. “If we lock up on one end the other end is going to come,” he said “Coach really stresses defense every day. Coach sets the speed limit (points allowed). The speed limit is 55, today we had them way below that. We shut them down on that end and the offense came.”
Rutgers once again got a big game its bench, which outscored Central Connecticut 33-8. Mike Williams was a key with eight points and seven assists. “I’m able to see how the pace of the game is going. I’m able to read off my teammates, see who’s hot, who’s in a certain position. I love my role,” Williams said.
Rutgers had eight dunks, many coming off its 28 fast-break points.
Central Connecticut: The Blue Devils visit Duquesne in the second game of a seven-game road trip. CCSU is 1-3 on the road this year.
Rutgers: Pikiell will have his homecoming as the Scarlet Knights travel to Stony Brook Saturday.