For the full recap on the win for Rutgers that lifts them to 11-1 on the season, click here. Here are some notable post game quotes and thoughts from head coach Steve Pikiell and guard Mike Williams. Fordham head coach Jeff Nuebauer also commented on the job Pikiell has done in leading the program’s turnaround so far this season.
Head Coach Steve Pikiell on the 68-53 victory:
Thank you for coming, I love playing here at Madison Square Garden. It was a tough game, I knew it would be. They play a unique style, are well coached, and have a lot of players back from a team that had a great year last year. It’s a different kind of game for us. I’m very thankful as we needed everyone today. We played our whole bench. We had one of our players who was sick yesterday and couldn’t practice. He was still feeling under the weather, so another guy had to step up and we got to continue to base this on ‘next guy up’ and out defense. They average 68 points a game, to hold them to 53, I think that’s their lowest point total of the year. It ties the lowest of the year for them. I love that backboard, our work on the backboards, good win for us.
Note: The player that Pikiell was speaking of what starting wing Issa Thiam, who played just three minutes and missed the only shot he took.
Pikiell’s thoughts on Mike Williams returning home to New York City and the Garden:
Mike has been great all year. It’s what I expect, he’s a guy I can count on, defensively and offensively. I thought he was really solid today, we needed great poise today and you saw that in him. Every time he touched the ball, again they play a unique style, but Mike was locked in from the get go. It was great to see and he is having a great year.
Pikiell on being 11-1:
I’m just proud that these guys jumped on board. CJ jumped on board. We are defending. I think in the first half we were really locked in on a team that can really shoot the three. Just happy for these guys to get a taste of it. When you defend and you rebound, good things happen. As for the great start, I don’t really think too much about it. We want to be 1-0 and that’s what we try to do, we really try to do that.
On Rutgers playing and winning in the Garden:
I know all the history, you know history to these guys (players) is last week for them. The Garden is a special place and we talked a lot about it. Mike has played here a few times and it's a great environment. The energy inside and outside the building is just special. It’s great to come in here and play a local team and play well, get ourselves a win.
Pikiell on Seton Hall:
Seton Hall is really good. Coach Willard does a great job. They have a talented team and won the Big East last year. We’re very familiar with how good they are, so we look forward to playing them on Friday. We’ll have a good game plan, go play a really good program with really good players. They’ve beaten us the last few years and it will be a big challenge for us. We like challenges, I like challenges as a coach.
Pikiell was asked if people saying his team plays hard is the ultimate compliment as a coach:
Yeah, I’m glad they say that. I hope they do and they do. They practice hard and play hard. We’ve got a lot of guys that have bought in right now. We have a lot of room to grow and that’s the exciting part of this, we can get a lot better.
Mike Williams on returning home and playing in the Garden:
I feel like’ve been here before, I’ve got the feel of the court already. You know it was fun to have my family in the crowd, my friends in the crowd and it was just great to play in the Garden again.
Mike on being 11-1
It’s a surreal feeling. I’ve been through a lot my first two years here and for me to be on the other side of the tracks, it feels great.
On Playing Seton Hall:
We’re not really worried about that (past losses). We are just going to prepare for a great team in Seton Hall. Coach Pikiell will have a great game plan and Friday night we just have to be ready to play. We are not really paying attention to that (measuring stick game). We just need to get back to practice and be ready for Friday night.
Williams on what he will tell his teammates about the rivalry with Seton Hall:
It goes back a long time, it’s historic. It’s about New Jersey. As coach has said, we’ve lost to them a few times, but we just have to prepare ourselves for Friday night. It will be a great environment at the Prudential Center. As coach said, they won the Big East last year and we have to prepare for them.
Williams on what Pikiell has done for the program so far:
He brings his own energy and style and flair to this program. As soon as he came in back in April, he was ready to go. He talked about always wanting this job here (Rutgers) and now for him to have it, he is energetic. I just like playing for this man.
Fordham coach Jeff Neubauer on Rutgers:
Steve Pikiell’s done a great job with the Rutgers program so far. For them to be 11-1 right now is really a tribute to them and how they’ve been able to recruit and really instill a defensive mentality - very similar to what we tried to do last season. We got off to a similar start. They’re huge - they’re the second best offensive rebounding team in the country and that really was a problem for us. For us to be more successful, we've got to become a good shooting team and we certainly did not shoot the ball great today.
Rutgers won at the Garden and is 11-1. No matter what happens the rest of the season, as Rutgers will likely be the underdog in every remaining game, this start has been extremely impressive and satisfying for the fans. Friday night will be a big test, but also a rivalry game against Seton Hall that Rutgers fans can approach with hope and optimism. That alone is progress in year one for Steve Pikiell. We will have plenty of coverage leading up to Friday’s game all week.
Lastly, this is another reason why the program is very different now and one all Rutgers fans should be thankful for: