A Big-Ten opening loss to Wisconsin was a bad day for every Rutgers guard, and specifically Corey Sanders. While Rutgers is an underwhelming 1-7 so far in Big Ten play, the improvement since December's loss at Wisconsin is clear.
For head coach Steve Pikiell it starts with his guards.
“We are a totally different team now in watching that tape,” Pikiell said. “Our guards really struggled in that game, Nigel and Corey. I think we are better offensively and I think we are better defensively. I think you’ll see that on Saturday. Again, we are playing a terrific team which I think you guys know. They start four seniors, one is a fifth year senior, they have three of the best players in the league. So we obviously have to play a lot better.”
Sanders came off the bench at Wisconsin in December with his worst performance of the season. On a 1-for-11 night, Sanders wants redemption.
“We're definitely up for the challenge,” Sanders said. “I'm definitely ready to get up there and play those guys. We left one on the table when we went out and played Wisconsin and I had a bad game personally. I'm ready to get out there and really redeem myself from that and from tonight. Getting us a chance against another great team is a great feeling.”
The last time Sanders played at Madison Square Garden, it came against Fordham with seven points, six rebounds, five assists and six turnovers.
“The first time we played there, it wasn't really much Rutgers people out there,” Sanders said. “This time we have our students there. It's going to be more of an environment for us. We're going to be up for the challenge. It's another game that we can steal and beat a ranked team.”
Frustrated after the loss at Maryland, Sanders said there is no lack or loss of focus in the lcoker room.
“Of course we didn't come to lose,” Sanders said. “We strap up and we try to play our hardest to win. Unfortunately we're not getting these road wins. I know we're going to get things rolling. I trust the process. I trust my teammates. We just have to band together with the will to win on the road. It's not easy to win on the road. It's going to be hard from here on out. We've got to play hard if we want to win.”
Part of the road trip experience means interaction with non-local media outlets. For Sanders, the best-known face of the program, it means plenty of conversation about his decision to return to Rutgers after Eddie Jordan's firing.
“I've got a lot of things I still have to get better on,” Sanders said when asked about testing the NBA waters after losing to Maryland. “I really picked things up the second half of the season. My big thing is to come back and win. We had a terrible record last year. Hopefully, this year, we've got hopefully we get some more games and get to where we want to get and be a contender in the Big Ten Tournament.”