Rutgers looks to bounce back from its most disappointing loss of the season when it concludes non-conference play against Hartford on Thursday. The Scarlet Knights had won their previous four games, including a 71-65 victory against 24th-ranked Seton Hall, before dropping a 75-73 overtime decision to Stony Brook on Friday and hope to get back on track by beating Hartford for the third consecutive time.
“Basketball is a cruel sport sometimes, but you get what you deserve,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell told reporters. “Basketball is a cruel life teacher too as some days you’re up and some days you’re down, so we’ll see how these guys bounce off the mat.” The Scarlet Knights have won 17 of their last 18 non-conference home games, including a 77-75 victory over the Hawks last season. Rutgers has won four of their last five meetings with America East Conference opponents since the start of the 2014-15 season and hopes to earn 11 non-conference victories for the second straight year under Pikiell. Hartford has won three of its last four games following a 79-72 victory against Florida International and can move back to .500 by posting back-to-back road victories for the first time since January 2016.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network Plus
ABOUT HARTFORD (6-7): John Carroll led the way with 17 points and a career-high 10 rebounds in the win against FIU to notch his second double-double of the season. Jason Dunne and Travis Weatherington combined to make six 3-pointers en route to 15 points each as the Hawks shot a sizzling 62 percent from the floor against the Panthers. J.R. Lynch scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and George Blagojevic added a season-high 10 as five Hartford players finished in double figures.
ABOUT RUTGERS (10-4): Deshawn Freeman scored a season-high 20 points to finish in double figures for the 12th time this season, but the Scarlet Knights were doomed by an 8-of-19 performance from the free-throw line. Geo Baker contributed 15 points and six assists while Issa Thiam tallied 12 points in the loss to Stony Brook. Mike Williams added 10 points to become the 43rd player in Rutgers history to reach 1,000 for his career while Corey Sanders was limited to eight points after averaging 17.7 over his previous four games.
1. Rutgers leads the nation in rebounds per game (45.4).
2. Freeman has scored 20 or more points 36 times in his career.
3. Hartford has lost 10 of its last 13 non-conference road games.
PREDICTION: Rutgers 83, Hartford 70