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Rutgers men's basketball routs Columbia in season opener

Senior guard Cam Spencer contributed heavily in the second half to help give the Rutgers men's basketball team its first win of the new season. – Photo by Rutgers Men’s Basketball / Twitter

The Rutgers men’s basketball team cruised to a 75-35 win over Columbia at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus. The big win marked the Scarlet Knights' (1-0, 0-0) first step to becoming the first team in program history to make three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

Rutgers started the game with high intensity on the offensive end. The Knights won the tip-off and senior guard Paul Mulcahy quickly threw an alley-oop to junior center Clifford Omoruyi. Rutgers used that early offensive momentum to build a 15-0 lead in the first 6 minutes.

The Lions (0-1, 0-0) would fight back and eventually cut the deficit to 4, but the Knights finished the first half strong, scoring 6 straight points to take a 31-21 lead into halftime.

Rutgers struggled offensively in the first half, especially when Omoruyi was not on the floor. The team only shot 32.5 percent from the field and less than 17 percent from the free throw line.

The Knights came back in the second half revitalized and were able to quickly run away with the game. Senior guard Cam Spencer caught fire in the second half, opening up with 7 straight points. Spencer took control on both the offensive and defensive end in his first-ever game at Rutgers and ended with 17 points, five assists and six steals.

On the back of Spencer’s offensive outburst, the Knights scored 44 points in the second half. They also shot an improved 56.25 percent from the field. Rutgers still struggled from the free throw line as the team went 50 percent from the charity stripe in the second half.

Junior forward Aundre Hyatt had a big game for the Knights, scoring 12 points, securing 10 rebounds and getting one highlight reel-worthy dunk.

“Every time a shot goes up, I am going to try to crash the glass,” Hyatt said. “It ... creates different opportunities for the team, so that's something I am going to try and keep up.” 

Omoruyi came close to a double-double with 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. He also had a 42 plus-minus. Freshman guard Derek Simpson, freshman forwards Antwone Woolfolk and Antonio Chol all made their program debuts, with Simpson scoring 4 points and Woolkolk scoring 2 points and grabbing three rebounds.

The Rutgers defense was suffocating all game. Columbia only scored 14 points in the second half. The Knights forced 31 turnovers and scored 13 points on the fast break. On the glass, they were strong too, registering 46 rebounds with 16 coming on the offensive end.

Rutgers will look to continue the positive momentum when the program hosts Sacred Heart on Thursday. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+ and 88.7 WRSU-FM.

“It’s nice to be playing games,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “I thought we shared the ball. Twenty assists, I love that number. I thought our defense was at a high level. We really, in the second half, really just took it to another level.”


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


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