The Rutgers men's basketball team overcame sloppy play to defeat Boston University and Bryant this weekend. The Scarlet Knights (2-1, 0-0) beat the Terriers (0-2, 0-0) by a score of 69-45 on Friday and bested the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-0) 66-57 on Sunday.
Rutgers got off to an extremely slow start against Boston University. The Knights had many offensive miscues, and approximately 11 minutes into the game, Otto Landrum drilled a three-point shot to give the Terriers a 19-16 lead.
Rutgers looked out of sync those first 11 minutes, as it missed multiple free throw attempts, made many errant passes and missed some defensive rotations.
In the final 9 minutes of the half, though, the Knights rebooted and ended the half on a 14-3 scoring run.
Rutgers took a 30-22 lead into halftime despite only shooting 46.67 percent from the free throw line, 30 percent from beyond the arc and committing 13 turnovers.
The Knights opened up the second half with more cohesion, going on a 22-4 scoring run in approximately the first 9 minutes of the half to put the game out of reach. With a commanding 28-point lead for Rutgers, both teams started trading baskets in the final 10 minutes of the game.
With approximately 2 minutes left in the game, head coach Steve Pikiell subbed in senior guard Aiden Terry, sophomore guard Jacob Morales and graduate student guard Zach Hayn to close out the 24-point victory.
Freshman guard Gavin Griffiths shined in his home debut and led the team with 25 points while shooting 9-15 from the field and 3-7 from three-point range. Griffiths also had a highlight putback dunk and block in the contest.
"My coaches have told me they wanted me to shoot, and so I’ve just been playing with great confidence. They really instill confidence in me," Griffiths said. "I was just excited, and I was just ready to play today."
"I think our guys just kind of settled in and just did a really good job about being focused. The last 6 minutes of the first half, we didn’t turn the ball over, and then we started that second half on a big run," Pikiell said. "We got to do a better job from the free throw line, taking care of the ball a little bit better, and I think we will. I like this team's approach."
The Knights played a much closer game against Bryant on Sunday. Though Rutgers only trailed the Bulldogs once in the first half, it failed to build a substantial lead.
Turnovers once again plagued the Knights, as they committed seven turnovers in the first half. Senior center Clifford Omoruyi also failed to make a first-half impact, as he only played 10 minutes due to picking up two early fouls. Hyatt stepped up for Rutgers again, scoring 9 points and grabbing six rebounds in the first half.
The Knights led 29-25 heading into halftime, though they were only shooting approximately 17 percent from three-point range and approximately 45 percent from the free throw line.
Bryant made a push midway through the second half and led 44-41, but Rutgers responded by going on an 8-0 scoring run. The Knights led the rest of the way, but they could never push their lead to double-digit points.
The victory could, in part, be attributed to the second-half play of Omoruyi and sophomore guard Derek Simpson. Omoruyi was a force inside in the second half, scoring 11 points and grabbing an outstanding 13 rebounds.
Simpson scored 8 points, going a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe, but it was his defense that stood out. Simpson got his hands in the passing lanes for two steals, and he also spent multiple possessions successfully guarding Sherif Gross-Bullock, who was the leading scorer in the America East Conference last year.
"Shoot it, don't think about it," Simpson said about his free throw shooting. "You're there, everybody’s hands up, it's quiet, just shoot it, it is what it is. That's why I take my one dribble, I bend my knees and shoot it. You don't sit there and think about it."
Hyatt stuffed the stat sheet, leading the team with 19 points, grabbing eight rebounds, getting two blocks and two steals.
Rutgers used its speed and size to its advantage, scoring 21 fastbreak points and corralling 19 offensive rebounds. The Knights still struggled to finish around the rim, going 9-22 on layups. Clutch free throws would give Rutgers the 9-point win.
The Knights will look to keep their winning streak going when they face Georgetown on Wednesday. The game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. and be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
"When it was win time, we got four straight stops. We grabbed a rebound, we got stops, they didn't score," Pikiell said. "I think we learned a little bit from Princeton. It was win time. We didn't get any stops … Even there is those games that you don't play great in the whole time, but when it’s win time, you figure out a way to win."
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