Rutgers overcomes poor play, sparked by Williams in 71-67 win over CCSU
Things were way too close for the Rutgers men's basketball team on Sunday afternoon, as it took 49-year-old head coach Steve Pikiell getting knocked down by an opposing player to inject enough life into the Scarlet Knights (2-0) to defeat a less-than-stellar Central Connecticut State team, 71-67.
With 9:42 left in the game, a Blue Devil player dove after a loose ball and took out Pikiell in the process. Pikiell got right up, started clapping and got the crowd on its feet.
At that point, Rutgers was down 46-44. But on that possession, with the Rutgers Athletic Center as loud as it had been all day, senior guard Mike Williams drained a three-pointer to give the Knights the lead.
That shot got the team going and sparked a 17-2 run to put the game away and give Rutgers its second win in three days.
"I thought I took a charge," Pikiell joked about the play. "They decided to play for that stretch...and we kind of turned the game around."
The leader of that stretch and for the entirety of the game was without a doubt captain Williams. After missing the season opener with a knee injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage, he made a triumphant return to the floor, leading all scorers with 23 points, as well as going 3-5 from three-point range and making his first 10 free throws en route to a 10-12 clip from the charity stripe.
"I have 28, 29 games left so every game to me counts," Williams said after the game. "Every game to me is precious. I wanted to come out here and play like it's my last."
He certainly did, as it is hard to imagine the Knights winning the game without him on the floor. Despite there being a mismatch in talent at almost every position, the Blue Devils still showed more heart and drive, and they also had a little luck on their side.
Known for being one of the worst shooting teams in the country, CCSU shot an impressive 48.1 percent mark from the field on Sunday afternoon. Every time it looked like Rutgers was ready to make a big run, the Blue Devils would have an answer and kept themselves in the game for way longer than anyone expected.
CCSU showed a lot of that drive in the paint, as it held its own in the rebounding department and had plenty of open looks under the basket for easy points. Pikiell was clearly upset with the defensive effort, as that is what his teams are built around.
Sophomore forward Eugene Omoruyi had a career-high 13 points for the first time and tied for the team lead in rebounds with his seven boards. But despite his strong individual performance, he was part of a defensive effort that was not up to par.
"We just weren't as good on defense as normal days," he said. "At practice we'll change a couple things, and we'll be better."
While a win is a win and the Knights are 2-0 to start the season, Rutgers has plenty of work to do before it hosts Cleveland State on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in another quick turnaround.
"Our defense was awful," Pikiell said. "We gotta come out right off the bat, and we gotta make a statement about how we're gonna play and what we're gonna be...We gotta be better."