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Rutgers men's basketball defeats Maine in 1st game in 18 days

The Rutgers men's basketball team restarted action with a win against Maine.  – Photo by Ben Solomon / Rutgers Athletics

In its first game in 18 days, the Rutgers men’s basketball team defeated Maine 80-64. The win is the first of two rescheduled non-conference games in three days for the Scarlet Knights (5-5, 1-1) before they re-start Big Ten play against Michigan.

The game against the Black Bears (3-7, 0-0) was originally scheduled for Wednesday evening but was postponed due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns. Rutgers’ game against Rider was recently canceled for the same reason.

Maine’s only lead of the game was a 3-2 lead it held early in the first half. After that, the Knights steadily built up their lead to as much as 18 points with 1:33 left in the first half. When the first half expired, Rutgers held a 42-30 lead.

Sophomore center Clifford Omoruyi led the Knights in scoring at the half with 10 points while senior guard Geo Baker scored all 9 of his points in the first frame.

The Black Bears would not get the lead under double-digits for the entire second half, as Rutgers would maintain its lead built in the first half on the way to victory. The closest Maine was to the Knights in the second half was 10 points with 18:21 left.

“It was a tough, tough day, our guys are real tired. (This is a) new experience I haven’t had in my 30 years of coaching,” said head coach Steve Pikiell after the game. “I’m glad we toughed through the game.”

Senior guard Ron Harper Jr. led the way for Rutgers with 19 points followed by 14 points from Omoruyi and junior guard Paul Mulcahy, who also made all four of his three-pointers in the win. Senior guard Caleb McConnell rounded out the four Knights who scored in double-figures.

McConnell also made his presence known on the defensive end. Combined with two steals, McConnell held Vukasin Masic, the Black Bears’ leading scorer entering today, to 5 points and 2-6 shooting.

“I think (McConnell) is one of the best defenders in the league and has to guard a lot of different guys,” Pikiell said.

Rutgers shot its second-highest field goal percentage on the season in the win, shooting approximately 53 percent from the field. Additionally, with 16 made free throws, the program made the second-most free throws in a game this season.

Eleven players saw minutes off the bench for the Knights and contributed 11 points. Among those to score off the bench were sophomore forwards Mawot Mag and Oskar Palmquist and freshman guard Jalen Miller.

Some areas in which Rutgers had an advantage was in fast-break points and points in the paint. In the fast break, the Knights outscored Maine 18-3 while the program had 28 points in the paint compared to the Black Bears’ 24 points. 

LeChaun DuHart had a game-high 22 points to lead Maine in scoring while Ata Turgut was the only other player to join DuHart in double-figures. Adefolalrin Adetogun led the Black Bears in rebounding while Maine was held to 42 percent scoring in the loss.

Rutgers will remain at home to take on Central Connecticut State on New Year’s Day. Tip off is scheduled for 5 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.

“My family has a long standing relationship with people at (Central Connecticut State). My dad worked at Central Connecticut for 25 years, so it’s right up the street from where I grew up,” Pikiell said.

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

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