Sanders leads Rutgers past NJIT 73-64

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Corey Sanders left the arena Tuesday night frustrated. After a 2-of-15 shooting performance against No. 3 Michigan State, Rutgers' star guard felt he let his team down and kept them from a potential upset in the 62-52 loss.

But Sanders had 18 points on Thursday night to help the Scarlet Knights beat NJIT 73-64.

"That's just now how I play basketball. I know it's a team sport, but you always have to rate yourself after performances. That (Michigan State) was a big game for us. I feel like if I had did more, that game could have been different," Sanders said. "To get back over the hump — I feel like I did tonight — it just feels good."

Sanders was 8 of 15 from the floor, and Deshawn Freeman added 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting for Rutgers. Eugene Omoruyi chipped in 11 points and five rebounds off the bench.

Anthony Tarke led NJIT (5-4) with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four steals while Abdul Lewis chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds.

NJIT jumped out to a 7-0 less than four minutes into the game. Rutgers overcame the deficit by the midpoint of the first half, and things went back and forth before Rutgers took a 33-32 halftime lead.

"I was nice and quiet and shy in the locker room (at halftime)," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell joked. "It was good. Just tried to get them a little more focused to how we play. I want to play Rutgers basketball. In Rutgers basketball we rebound, we don't give teams 23 offensive rebounds. We run, we're active, we're diving for loose balls, we're spacing the floor. But, we weren't doing that."

The message was received as Rutgers stretched the lead to 17 after Geo Baker made a 3-pointer with 8:58 remaining.

"They made some shots . We missed some easy baskets and they did a good job of defending. We didn't cut through contact, we didn't move the ball the way that I would've liked to," NJIT coach Brian Kennedy said. "Hats off to Rutgers for their defense. I think they ratcheted up their defense at the beginning of the second half during that run."

BIG PICTURE

NJIT: Just a few years removed from the longest active losing streak for a NCAA Division I team, the Highlanders missed out on the first 6-3 start in school history. With Rutgers and games against then-No. 19 Seton Hall and then-No. 18 West Virginia behind them, the Highlanders have several winnable games before ASUN Conference play starts.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights enter a reprieve after getting a taste of Big Ten play at No. 12 Minnesota and home against No. 3 Michigan State. With the back-to-back losses behind them, Rutgers can add a few more wins before conference play resumes with the remainder of the non-conference schedule against inferior opponents outside of No. 19 Seton Hall.

STEALING THE SHOW

NJIT had 15 steals, nine of which came in the first half. Tarke and Zach Cooks each had four.

"That's kind of our identity," Kennedy said. "We play full-court, man-to-man defense. I usually play a lot of guys at a lot of minutes. We try to keep the pressure on defensively and try and pick up full court, and use our numbers and our guards that we have to cause some disruptions."

NO REST FOR THE WEARY

Rutgers is in the midst of playing five games in a 10-day span.

"Just a tough stretch, other people have it too," Pikiell said. "We just seem to have a lot of games. We've played some terrific teams. Florida State, and the stretch we were on with Minnesota and Michigan State too, those were physical games."

UP NEXT

NJIT host Iona on Saturday afternoon.

Rutgers hosts another intrastate team in Farleigh Dickinson on Saturday night.