Rutgers does not enter Big Ten play with a winning record but it could do so after back-to-back confidence builders to close out December.
Rutgers topped Fairleigh Dickinson before a brief holiday break and faces a challenge Monday night in UMass Lowell. The River Hawks (4-7) sit upon a three-game losing streak of their own, but any team with a road victory over Boston College represents a challenge to the Scarlet Knights (5-7).
The Scarlet Knights have both a size and experience advantage for what could be the final time in the 2015-16 season but remain thin off the bench.
Junior forward DeShawn Freeman (knee) is the closest to a return with center Shaquille Doorson (foot) and Ibrahima Diallo (foot) out indefinitely.
“It wasn’t minutes; it was who was playing well. If you played well, you played,” head coach Eddie Jordan said to reporters on managing a thin bench against FDU. “If you didn’t, you were coming out and I’ll try somebody else.”
Guard Corey Sanders leads Big Ten freshmen with his 13.5 points per game and a career-best 21 against FDU. The Scarlet Knights likely stick with a three-guard attack tonight with Sanders alongside Mike Williams, Omari Grier, D.J. Foreman and Greg Lewis.
Williams, who continues work at forward because of injuries, faces a unique matchup against 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jahad Thomas. Thomas plays a similar role for Lowell, where he leads with 11.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in what is good defensive preparation for what Williams can expect in the Big Ten.