Steve Pikiell will take on his old team Thursday when Rutgers faces Stony Brook in one of its final non-conference games of the season. The Scarlet Knights can build off their solid victory over No. 22 Seton Hall by holding off the Seawolves for the second straight season.
Pikiell spent 11 seasons with the Seawolves, turning a 4-24 program into one that went 26-7 and reached the NCAA Tournament in his final season. “Pikiell talks about how he built it up (at Stony Brook) the same way he’s building us up, with defense and toughness,” freshman Geo Baker told the media. “He preaches that, and we know they are going to have the same mentality.” The two teams played a hard-fought game last season, one that Stony Brook led at halftime before Mike Williams iced a 71-66 victory for Rutgers with two free throws in the waning seconds. Williams, a senior, needs six points to reach 1,000 for his career for the Scarlet Knights, who close their non-conference schedule next week against Hartford.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Plus
ABOUT STONY BROOK (4-8): After missing the season’s first four games and taking three games to get up the speed, Jaron Cornish had registered five straight games in double figures while averaging 15.2 points for the Seawolves of the American East Conference. The junior transfer from Broward College hasn’t been much of a 3-pointer shooter, but has been spectacular from inside the arc, making 31-of-58 over the last five games. Akwasi Yeboah, a 6-6 guard from England, leads Stony Brook in scoring (13.9) and rebounding (5.1).
ABOUT RUTGERS (10-3): Baker was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for his efforts against Fordham and Seton Hall as the 6-4 guard from New Hampshire logged 29 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Baker leads all Big Ten freshmen in points (12.5), assists (3.8) and minutes played (31.5) for the Scarlet Knights, who have won all four matchups with the Seawolves of New York. “Geo is getting better. He is moving around playing the one and the two,” Pikiell told the media. “He adds another really good passer, which we needed from last season. His IQ is very good, and he is a good shooter.”
1. Rutgers sophomore F Eugene Omoruyi had 17 total rebounds against Fordham and Seton Hall, his highest two-game total this season.
2. The Scarlet Knights are 19-1 in non-conference home games under Pikiell, who fashioned six 20-win seasons and a 192-156 record while at Stony Brook.
3. Rutgers is first nationally in rebounding (45.7 per game) and in the top five in offensive rebounding (16.2), scoring defense (58.3 points) and field goal defense (36.3 percent).
PREDICTION: Rutgers 79, Stony Brook 64