The Rutgers men’s basketball team won its third consecutive game at the RAC in a six day period, as the Scarlet Knights soundly beat Fordham on Tuesday night by the score of 75-63. The game was decided in the paint, as Rutgers held a 48-20 scoring advantage with interior points and a +18 edge on the boards. Senior captain Deshawn Freeman led the way with a team high 14 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season.
After Rutgers was able to jump out to an 18-9 lead, Fordham was able to stay in the game and cut the lead down to 30-28 with less than three minutes left in the first half. Back to back four point plays from Ivan Raut, who was fouled while making two straight three-pointers, helped close the gap. However, the Rutgers defense stepped up and held Fordham scoreless the final 2:51 of the opening frame. The highlight of that defensive stretch was forcing the Rams into three straight shot clock violations.
Rutgers led 36-28 at the break, as Corey Sanders eclipsed the 1,000 point milestone with the last basket of the half with a six foot scoop on a drive to the rim. Appropriately, it was a difficult shot that somehow Sanders was able to finish in a way only he can.
I loved the maturity of Sanders in this game, as he did not force shots and played team basketball, despite needing just 3 points to reach 1,000 points. Instead, he let the game come to him and it was a clear sign he has bought into head coach Steve Pikiell’s vision for this team. Sanders had some sloppy moments, as he committed six turnovers and fouled out late in the game. He finished with 12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. To read Brian Fonseca’s profile on Sanders and relive some of his best moments in a Rutgers uniform on the way to becoming the 42nd player in program history to achieve the 1,000 point milestone, click here.
Geo Baker and Sanders continue to play well together in the backcourt, as the ball movement and sharing of the basketball on offense for Rutgers is much improved from last season. Baker got better as the game went on and finished with 12 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. His alley-oop to Freeman was a highlight in this game.
That's a wrap from The RAC, and that's three dubs in a row for @RutgersMBB.@Geo_Baker_1 found @Cant_Guard33 in the first half, and the Scarlet Knights finished Fordham in the second: pic.twitter.com/CRV3iqPsTk— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) December 13, 2017
Fordham hung around for awhile in the second half and were down 53-43 with ten minutes to play, but Rutgers put the pedal to the medal, producing a 12-0 run to lead 65-43 with six minutes to play. Unfortunately, the Scarlet Knights took their foot off the gas and the Rams responded with its own 13-0 run to cut the deficit to nine points with four minutes left in the game. Rutgers responded with Mike Williams grabbing a Eugene Omoruyi miss and scored with the putback. On the next possession, Sanders completed a three-point play and the lead was quickly back to 14 points with 2:50 left in the game, as the issue was no longer in doubt.
On the night, Fordham was able to stay somewhat close due to making 11 of 29 three-point attempts in the game. They were led by Ivan Raut, who scored 19 points and made 5 of 10 shots behind the arc. He also led the Rams with 7 rebounds.
Backup center Candido Sa has emerged for Rutgers in the past three games and was dominant in the first half, scoring 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting from the field. He was quiet in the second half, but his ability to block shots on the defensive end could be a factor moving forward. After scoring just 5 points and grabbing 23 rebounds in the first nine games of the season, Sa has now averaged 5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks off the bench in the past three contests.
In addition, Mike Williams continued his strong play of late, producing 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. Issa Thiam added 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds.
As a team, Rutgers also produced a third straight strong shooting effort, after finishing the game making 49% of its shots from the field. Six players scored in double digits and the team dished out 17 assists. Although they committed 14 turnovers, that was four less than opponents are averaging against Fordham and they held a +2 edge in turnover margin in the game.
Next up, blood rival #15 Seton Hall will visit the RAC on Saturday at high noon in a game that is already sold out. Pirates head coach Kevin Willard has his team clicking on all cylinders, as they have won five straight games and have a 9-1 record entering Saturday’s matchup. Rutgers now has four days to prepare for what should be a raucous environment at the RAC. For now, credit the Scarlet Knights for taking care of business against three straight inferior opponents after their strong effort against #2 Michigan State a week ago. This team is playing well together and they’ll have a great opportunity on Saturday to make a big statement against the Hall.