Echenique leads Rutgers past Princeton 58-44

Rutgers got a career-high 21 points and 11 rebounds from sophomore center Greg Echenique in a 58-44 win against Princeton on Thursday at the Rutgers Athletic Center. He scored 17 points and seven rebounds in the second half as the Scarlet Knights beat their neighbors for the fifth consecutive time. Rutgers junior forward Jonathan Mitchell added 11 points in the win.

Sophomore center Greg Echenique hears it from his coach and his teammates constantly, and while he hears what they are saying, he doesn't quite understand it.

Even after it seemingly played out in Rutgers' 58-44 defeat of Princeton on Thursday in front of 4,072 at the Rutgers Athletic Center, Echenique isn't ready to embrace the notion he sometimes lacks energy on the court.

And, yes, even after scoring 17 of his career-high 21 points and grabbing seven of his 11 rebounds in the second half, he is curious what others are seeing that he is not.

"I don't think that I go on the court and not play hard,'' Echenique said. "He (coach Fred Hill) says it all the time, but sometimes I get upset because I don't think that I go out there and not play hard. But I guess (others) have a different point of view because you're from the outside.''

One thing is for sure.

Rutgers (4-2) needs to find a way to bring out the fire in Echenique on a daily basis.

"When he gets mad, he's like a beast,'' said Rutgers senior forward Jonathan Mitchell, who added 11 points. "You gotta, like, talk about his girl. That's the only way we can get through to him. When he decides he wants to dominate the game in the paint …you saw tonight, he dominated the game.''

Princeton (2-4) shot 28.8 percent (15 of 52) from the field, and was out-rebounded 41-28.

It was Rutgers' fifth straight win the series, and marked the second time in two tries Echenique had a big effort against the Tigers. He scored 15 points and had 11 rebounds last season.

"We talk about it all the time. He's got the capability,'' Rutgers coach Fred Hill said. "When he's going to come and bring the passion, and the enthusiasm and the toughness …he's a monster.''

The 6-foot-9, 265-pound Echenique did his second-half damage in 12 minutes, and part of it was due to Princeton's defensive philosophy.

The Tigers (2-4) were paying extra attention to Rutgers sophomore guard Mike Rosario (2 of 12, 9 points), and extended the defense on the wings, which left Echenique with room near the basket.

"He's a load,'' Princeton coach Sydney Johnson said. "He works hard and he was especially frustrating tonight because he made 11 free throws. I don't know if he gets enough credit for how hard he works and how he keeps coming at you.''

When the Scarlet Knights opened the second half with a five minute offensive lull, it was Echenique bailing them out.

Princeton cut a 29-18 deficit to four points on Douglas Davis' jumper with 15:05 to play, before James Beatty ended the scoreless streak with a 3-pointer to push the Scarlet Knights' lead to 32-25 with 14:13 to play. It also kicked-started an 8-0 run, capped by Rosario's 3-pointer.

But what Hill liked the best was how Rutgers defended during the scoring drought. Rather than allow Princeton to come all the way back, the Scarlet Knights got three successive stops and were able to hold onto the lead until the offense regrouped.

"I saw (the poise) on the defensive end,'' Hill said. "We've got to make better decisions. We've got to get our break going a little bit better, but again, this is a tough game to do that because of the style of play. But I was very pleased with their maturity on the defensive end, and our discipline on the defensive end.''

And when the offense stabilized, Echenique was at the forefront.

He scored 10 points as Rutgers stretched its lead from 32-25 to 45-34 with eight minutes remaining. He also finished 11 of 12 from the free throw line.

"He was amazing. Amazing,'' Rutgers senior center Hamady Ndiaye said. "I'm really glad he did it. When he goes out there and plays hard, there isn't anybody that can stop him, and I know that for a fact because I play against him every day. He just has to believe in himself.''

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