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Rutgers aims to rely on strong defense vs. Long Island


Rutgers has a stretch of Saturday afternoon games this month before returning to its Big Ten schedule.

The first of those non-conference games comes this weekend against visiting Long Island in Piscataway, N.J. The Scarlet Knights (6-3) will face Mississippi State and Stonehill the next two Saturdays.

They also played their most recent game last Saturday, collecting a 70-63 road win over Seton Hall to halt a two-game slide. Noah Fernandes led the way with 19 points, while Clifford Omoruyi dominated the paint with 11 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks.

“We had some challenges early on,” coach Steve Pikiell said. “I like how this team has responded. I think we’re going to continue to get better. That’s what I always like about the journey of the season. We always get better.”

As usual, Rutgers is relying on its defense. The Scarlet Knights are holding opponents to 37.2 percent shooting.

The Sharks (1-8) have lost their past four games, with their lone victory coming against Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Nov. 24. In their matchups against high-profile teams, they dropped a 78-58 decision to UCLA on Nov. 15 and fell 97-49 to Miami on Dec. 6.

Long Island struggled again on Tuesday in a 78-65 setback to UMass Lowell.

“We’ve had a brutal schedule,” coach Rod Strickland said. “Our first game was home and the rest of it on the road. We’ve played some pretty good teams and we’ve also been in a situation where we’ve had injuries. We’ve gone a month without being able to go up and down as a team with 10 guys.”

Eric Acker leads the Sharks in scoring (12.7 points per game) and assists (2.9). Tai Strickland is averaging 11.9 points.

“We’ve got some growing pains happening,” Rod Strickland said. “We’ve got some young guys trying to figure it out. We’ve had some really good moments and some really bad moments.”

The Scarlet Knights are 32-2 in the past five seasons at home against non-conference opponents.

–Field Level Media

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