Sanders mildly sprained his ankle in the Big Ten opening loss to Wisconsin. After Friday's practice, Sanders projects to start.
“It's a mild sprain, a regular mild sprain,” Pikiell said, adding “yes” when asked if he would be available for Sunday.
Sanders missed his first start of the season Tuesday night after travel complications held him out of practice. Pikiell enforced the rule, but said Sanders responded the right way.
“He was great,” Pikiell said. “He handled it just like anyone else that doesn't do what they have to do for us. He was great. It happens at Christmas time. We have a rule, you've got to practice the day before a game. He handled it great.”
After Pikiell stuck with the same starters through most of non-conference play, lineup shifts were key in the last two losses against Seton Hall and Wisconsin. Sophomore big man Ibrahima Diallo saw major minutes and freshman Eugene Omoruyi debuted as a starter against the Pirates.
“As we keep going into these games with bigger guys at every position and big backcourts … size makes it more difficult,” Pikiell said. “DeShawn [Freeman] and all of our bigs have to adjust to the size of all of the guys that they're playing with. … As big as people think we are, we're a small team in this league.”
Omoruyi's minutes are down since he debuted as a starter, but practices at a high level.
“He's got terrific toughness, Big Ten toughness,” Pikiell said. “We needed an upgrade in that area tremendously.”
Rutgers (11-3, 0-1) had extra time to prepare for Penn State
“Our non-conference schedule was good, it prepared us,” Pikiell said. “Obviously now we're playing terrific teams. I think we've seen it all.”