PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — The college basketball season is still in its infant stages, but maybe Rutgers is gaining a reputation as being a tough, hard-nosed defensive-minded team.
Just five days after holding Eastern Michigan to 36 points in a big win, the Scarlet Knights (4-1) came through defensively again Friday, holding Boston University to just 44 points in a 54-44 victory, the team’s fourth win in five games this season.
Eugene Omoruyi had 20 points and 17 rebounds – the highest rebound total for a Scarlet Knight player in 12 years – and Geo Baker added 19 points as Rutgers limited a BU squad to a season-low point total and just 33 percent field-goal shooting. The Terriers (3-4) entered play Friday averaging nearly 74 points per game.
“I tell them all the time that defense is what decides the game,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said. “If our defense continues to get better, we can win some games. I really do think we can be a good defensive team. We have taken a high step the last couple of games.”
The Scarlet Knights never trailed in the game and led by as many as 12 in the first half but held off the Terriers after BU cut the lead to 43-42 with 4:12 remaining in the game. The Scarlet Knights’ defense stiffened and allowed just two points the rest of the way.
Omoruyi was huge in the second half, scoring 13 of his points and grabbing 13 of his rebounds after the break.
“I was just playing my hardest,” said Omoruyi, who set a new career-high rebound total, surpassing his previous high of 10 with just his second-half performance. “The coaches have faith in me to make plays. I just keep doing the little things that help us win.”
“Gene is high energy,” Pikiell said. “I just love his improvement. Whenever a guy gets 17 rebounds, it means a lot. It was one of those games where we just grinded it out and found a way to win the game. It was an old-fashioned win.”
Baker, who scored 20 in the win over Eastern Michigan, continued his fine play.
“I think it’s one of my jobs to set the tone of the offense,” said Baker, who had 15 of his points in the first half as the Scarlet Knights jumped out to the 29-19 haltime lead. “I had to be aggressive and make some plays.”