Rutgers looks to win its third game in five days to start the 2017-18 season when it hosts non-conference foe Cleveland State on Tuesday night. The Scarlet Knights squeaked by Central Connecticut State on Sunday following a blowout win in their opener, while the Vikings are looking for their first win after falling at Akron on Saturday.
Senior guard Mike Williams was the spark for Rutgers in its close win Sunday, scoring 23 points off the bench in his first action of the season because of a knee injury. Four other players are averaging in double figures for coach Steve Pikiell, led by Deshawn Freeman’s 13.5 and Issa Thiam’s 12. New Vikings coach Dennis Felton is finding his way with a team that isn’t very big — Stefan Kenic is the team’s tallest player at 6-9 — but has five seniors in its rotation. Still, freshman Tyree Appleby was Cleveland State’s leading scorer in the opener with 13 points off the bench while senior Kenny Carpenter was the only other player in double figures with 11.
TV: 7 p.m. ET. Big Ten Network
ABOUT CLEVELAND STATE (0-1): Felton would certainly like to see his team shoot better after the Vikings blew an eight-point second-half lead against Akron and ended up losing 67-57. Cleveland State was 3-of-19 from the 3-point line and 10-of-26 from the free-throw line, with no one shooting better than 50 percent from the charity stripe. While the Vikings’ defense kept them in the game, holding Akron to 31.3 percent shooting from the field and 25.8 percent from 3-point range, they were outscored by nine points on the free-throw line despite having three more attempts.
ABOUT RUTGERS (2-0): Like any good coach, even when Pikiell’s team wins, he’s looking for ways to improve, and he didn’t have to look far after seeing the Scarlet Knights give up 67 points to a Central Connecticut State team picked for the bottom of the standings in the Northeast Conference this season. The Blue Devils shot 52 percent from the field in the first half and 48.1 percent overall, forcing Rutgers to rally late in the game to get the victory. The Scarlet Knights have plenty of size — six players on the roster are 6-9 or taller — so Pikiell would like to see more pressure on the perimeter with plenty of defensive length in the paint if players are able to get past the first line of defense.
1. Carpenter recorded his first career double-double against Akron, grabbing 12 rebounds to go with his 11 points.
2. Rutgers is 11-0 in non-conference home games in Pikiell’s two seasons as coach.
3. Scarlet Knights G Corey Sanders is 126 points short of reaching 1,000 for his career.
PREDICTION: Rutgers 76, Cleveland State 64