The Rutgers men’s basketball team defeated Howard 85-63 on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights (4-1, 0-0) used their speed and defense to run away from the Bison (2-3, 0-0).
Howard opened up the game on fire, hitting its first three shots to take an 8-2 lead 3 minutes into the game.
After the first media timeout, Rutgers played better perimeter defense, but its shots were still not falling. At the second media timeout, approximately 8 minutes into the game, the Knights were shooting just 3-11 from the field and 0-5 from beyond the arc and trailed the Bison by 5 points.
Rutgers came out of the second media timeout more focused on offense and, subsequently, went on its first scoring run of the game. The team scored 7 straight points in just less than 2 minutes to take the lead. The scoring burst was capped off by a three-point shot from fifth-year guard Noah Fernandes that sent Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus into a frenzy.
Howard called a timeout to try and stop the Knights’ momentum, but after the timeout, Rutgers scored another 7 straight points before Marcus Dockery made a jump shot to stop the 15-0 scoring run. The Knights' 15-0 scoring run came approximately halfway through the first half, lasted approximately 6 minutes and gave them a 9-point lead.
Both teams would go back and forth to end the first half, but sophomore guard Derek Simpson hit a buzzer-beating three-point shot to give Rutgers a 39-31 lead heading into halftime.
The Knights started the second half sloppy on both ends of the floor, and two straight three-pointers by the Bison put Howard within 4 points with approximately 13 minutes remaining in the game.
From there, though, Rutgers would increase its speed and intensity, making multiple baskets and causing the Bison to commit multiple turnovers to bring Jersey Mike’s Arena to a fever pitch. For approximately 7 minutes midway through the second half, the Knights went on a 24-8 scoring run to pull away from Howard. The scoring run was powered by good team basketball on both offense and defense.
With approximately 5 minutes left in the game, Rutgers had a 73-53 lead and was able to coast to the 22-point victory.
The win was a full team effort, as four Knights scored more than 10 points. Simpson led the way with a career-high 23 points, shooting an efficient 7-10 from the field and 7-9 from the charity stripe. Simpson also had four assists on the day.
“Absolutely, I think we all, as a group, had a lot of confidence,” replied Simpson when asked if he had confidence going into the game. “We had a great practice yesterday, guys got at each other yesterday ... That really helped us today.”
Senior center Clifford Omoruyi put up a gaudy stat line that included 15 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Thanks in part to Omoruyi, Rutgers outscored the Bison 48-20 in the paint.
The Knights forced Howard into 21 turnovers that led to 23 points scored. Fernandes played great on-ball defense and got in the passing lanes for five steals. The players also routinely showcased their speed in the contest, scoring 27 fast break points.
Despite the win, Rutgers’ perimeter defense left a lot to be desired, as the Bison shot 47.6 percent from three-point range. Dockery led Howard with 16 points.
The Knights will now take a nine-day break before facing Saint Peter’s on November 27. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and be broadcast on Big Ten Plus and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
“I really think this is an 80-point team, and I was thankful that they got to that number tonight because we've really been missing some shots in other games that we could’ve made,” head coach Steve Pikiell said. “But we are starting to gel together … I think we learned a lot about each other, now we got a week to improve and get better … I still think our best basketball is ahead of us.”
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