Well that didn't go as planned, as it was a much closer game than expected. Rutgers found themselves in a dogfight all night and were down 75-71 with 3:49 to play. But then Corey Sanders took over, leading Rutgers on a 16-9 run to end the game for a 87-84 victory. Sanders scored two layups, assisted on a clutch three-pointer from Mike Williams, and then clinched the game shooting 4-4 from the free throw line in the final 19 seconds. Sanders redeemed himself after going 1-6 from the line and missing three attempts in the final minutes against St. John's. His performance was one of a few that led Rutgers to a much needed victory.
Mike Williams continued his strong start to the season, leading the team with 25 points and 5-8 from three-point range. After shooting just 2-10 from long range after the first two games, Williams is now 8-15 in his last two. In addition to leading the team in scoring for the second game this season, he also added 4 rebounds.
Deshawn Freeman rebounded from a subpar game against St. John's and showed how valuable he is to this team. Freeman scored a career high 23 points on 9-15 shooting and had 8 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 steals. He showed poise and tremendous body control when he picked up this loose ball and finished on a wild shot.
In the first half, Freeman showed his versatility by blocking a shot in the paint and then delivering a pass to Sanders in stride on the break, leading to a monster dunk here.
D.J. Foreman delivered another workmanlike effort, posting his first double double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. As a team, Rutgers didn't win the rebounding battle, having the same amount as Central Arkansas, with 36 each. They also lost the turnover battle 14-10 and allowed the Bears to shoot 48% from the field. It was an up and down type of game and Rutgers struggled on defense. It was not close to the same effort on that side of the ball as Thursday. Guards Derreck Brooks and Jordan Howard led Central Arkansas with 40 combined points, including 6-14 from three-point range.
Rutgers shot much better from the free throw line, hitting 24 of 34 attempts for 71%, after starting just 5-10. An encouraging sign after Thursday's 5-14 effort from the line.
This team is raw and still learning. Central Arkansas is not a good team, ranked 316th out of 351 Division I teams in the Pomeroy ratings. If your wondering, Rutgers is now ranked 213th. Eddie Jordan was surely hoping for a more comfortable win before heading off to Vegas for Monday's game against Creighton in the Men Who Speak Up Event. Regardless, a win is a win and this team will take them anyway they come. Tonight showed that Williams, Freeman, Foreman and Sanders are the nucleus of this team and will be the core four for the next two seasons. That is an exciting prospect, as this is only their third game playing together and you can see them getting better.
The next two weeks will tell us a lot about this team, as their next four scheduled games are against Creighton, Clemson or UMass, Wake Forest and Seton Hall. Not a murderers row, but Clemson, Creighton, Wake Forest and Seton Hall are all ranked in the top 100 of the Pomeroy Ratings. Advanced statistics don't guarantee results, but Rutgers will have to play at a high level to be successful in this upcoming stretch of games. Tonight wasn't pretty, but they were able to close out the game and that is progress. This team is still learning how to play together and how to win. Next stop, Vegas!
Final stats from the RAC. D.J. Foreman with a double-double (10+10). pic.twitter.com/Nj9vej7Xzn— Rutgers Basketball (@RutgersMBB) November 22, 2015