The Rutgers men’s basketball team lost to Seton Hall 77-63 in the 72nd edition of the Garden State Hardwood Classic. The loss gives the No. 23 Pirates (9-1, 0-0) their first win over the Scarlet Knights (5-5, 1-1) since 2018.
The story of the first half was Seton Hall’s ability to gather offensive rebounds. The Pirates totaled 8 of their 12 total offensive rebounds in the first half, which combined with 12 first-half points from Kadary Richmond, gave the team a 37-27 lead going into halftime.
The closest Rutgers would get to Seton Hall the rest of the way would be 6 points, a margin they would reach four times, the last time with 6:24 remaining after a made free throw by sophomore center Clifford Omoruyi.
Each time the Knights reached 6 points down, the Pirates would have an answer, with the final run of the game being a 9-2 Seton Hall run after the aforementioned run by Rutgers that got the lead down to 6.
“Much respect for Seton Hall and how they played tonight. They're a really good basketball team,” said head coach Steve Pikiell after the game. “I thought we didn’t get off to a good start — you need to in a game like this, and too many turnovers in the first half and second shots really hurt us.”
The Knights’ leading scorers were Omoruyi and senior guard Caleb McConnell, both of whom scored 13 points. McConnell also led the team in rebounding by a wide margin with 12 rebounds, double the total of Omoruyi who had the second-most rebounds.
Senior guards Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. struggled to find a rhythm throughout the game. Rutgers’ two primary scorers shot a combined 7-23 from the field in the loss. Harper, who had a season-high 30 points in the win against Purdue, scored 10 points on 3-12 shooting yesterday.
As mentioned before, the Pirates won the rebounding battle 38-33 and combined that with 22 points off turnovers compared to 15 points for the Knights. The program shot 40.4 percent overall compared to 42.9 percent for Seton Hall.
“Coming into this game, we had a game plan, and I feel like we just didn’t execute the game plan,” McConnell said. “I just feel like we had to be better tonight, but it’s been a long week. We got a great win on Thursday, and we just didn’t execute tonight, and I feel like we just have to get better.”
The Pirates had five players reach double-figures in the win and was led by Bryce Aiken with a game-high 22 points. Behind Aiken was Jared Rhoden, who scored 16 points and tied a team-high in rebounding with nine boards. Alexis Yetna provided two blocks while Myles Cale had five steals.
Rutgers now enters a three-game stretch of home, non-conference games before it resumes Big Ten play in a home game against Michigan at the beginning of 2022. The program is 4-4 this season in non-conference games.
The Knights will start their out-of-conference stretch against Rider this coming Saturday. The game will tip off at 5 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.
“(Seton Hall’s) a good basketball team, and the crowd was tremendous, but we (have to) ... get better,” Pikiell said. “We got a tough schedule coming up, so we have to play better than that on the road against a really good team like Seton Hall.”
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