Rutgers vs. Indiana: Steve Pikiell's sideline energy was key in comeback victory
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Not many people expected the Rutgers men's basketball team to beat Indiana on Thursday night.
When Indiana went up 24-8 in the first half, nearly every single person in Madison Square Garden that wasn't on the Scarlet Knights' bench thought Indiana had put the game away.
But that didn't matter to Steve Pikiell, as his team fought tooth and nail, going on a 21-4 run to close out the half and take a 29-28 going into the locker room.
His team starts and ends with defensive effort. Rutgers was able to string together some defensive stops, and as the offense was more careful with the ball, the scoring came naturally.
A big part of that run was steals that turned into easy buckets. Corey Sanders had a breakaway dunk, Geo Baker had a breakaway layup and Deshawn Freeman finished the game with 5 steals.
When it was all said and done, the team had secured a massive 76-69 victory over the Hoosiers.
After the game in the locker room, Sanders deflected from his 28-point effort and credited the team defense for the win.
With a coach as animated as Steve Pikiell on the sidelines, it's not hard to be motivated. Crouched in a defensive stance for most of the second half, Pikiell looked ready to get on the floor and lock down the opponent's starting point guard.
Sanders said it helps keep the guys on the floor going and that they've learned to feed off of Pikiell's animated demeanor.
"I love it. Pike's my guy," Sanders said. "We've built a great relationship over these last two years. Once he's in it, (assistant) coach (Karl) Hobbs always says you gotta match his energy. When he turns up, we gotta turn up, and I think we did."
The Knights certainly turned up on defense, holding Indiana to a 35.8 percent mark from the field and a 25 percent mark from 3-point range.
Freeman, who was a regular starter until recently, said that he hadn't noticed Pikiell's energy as much as he has from the bench.
He also said that it's rare for a coach to be that animated and it's something that the team uses to its advantage.
"I didn't really notice him doing all that until I didn't start," Freeman said. "That's just great as a coach. You just don't see too many coaches doing that."