When Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell addressed his players in pregame, he was looking at the better team. Forty minutes later, his players proved it with style.
In a Tuesday night faceoff against fellow Connecticut product Donyell Marshall in year one at Central Connecticut State, Pikiell's players dunked their way to a 79-37 victory.
“You never enjoy games,” Pikiell said. “You're just trying to get them to improve and to execute. Donyell [Marshall] is going to do a really good job with that program, and I love Donyell. He's one of the best players ever. They're a very organized and well-coached team. We just kind of had it going today and everyone was ready to contribute.”
Four players scored in double figures with dominant advantages in bench points (33-8), points in the paint (60-14), fast break points (28-4) and steals (14-5). Big men DeShawn Freeman and CJ Gettys combined for 22 points, 11 boards and shot 85 percent.
“[Our forwards] finish well around the rim,” said Corey Sanders, who gave Rutgers 14 points and five steals. “It's good to have those players around me because I am one of those pass-first point guards that you see. Just to know that they're going to finish is a good feeling for me.”
The play of the night came on a Sanders alley-oop slam from Mike Williams. A masterful aerial display on the same hoop that won him a preseason slam-dunk contest, Sanders does not give Rutgers its first 30-point lead of the season with Candido Sa.
Sa blocked a driving Central Connecticut State player right into the Rutgers transition offense. Sanders finished with a two-hand slam.
“Everybody was getting dunks and Corey kept stressing that he needs one,” Williams said. “I told him, 'I'll get you a dunk,' Right on queue, Candido blocked the shot and I threw it up and I already knew. He's going to give the crowd something to cheer about.”
Rutgers (8-1) truly tests its focus the rest of the week. Off to the best start in 40 seasons, the Scarlet Knights travel into hostile territory at Stony Brook, where Pikiell made his name as a head coach.
“It's another team that's in our way right now,” Williams said. “I just want to get this win for Coach. He had been there for 11 years. I want it to be a special day, so I want to get this win for him.”
By the way...
Rutgers has more wins in nine games than all of the 2015-16 season.
Today's win is Pikiell's 200th of his career.
Rutgers dished out the most assists in a game since a 2011 win over UMBC
The win marks the largest margin of victory over a Division I opponent since beating Maryland Eastern Shore in 2005.
Rutgers held its first opponent below 40 points since a 2012 game against Pittsburgh.
Before a missed shot in the second half, CJ Gettys had a streak of 14 consecutive made shots.
Walk-on Aaren Smith from Ellicott City, Md. made his college debut for Rutgers, but he missed a pair of free-throw attempts in his only chance for points.
Rutgers recorded its most dunks (8) in a game since MidKnight Madness.