PISCATAWAY N.J. (Nov. 20, 2011) – Behind solid free throw shooting and a double-double from sophomore Gilvydas Biruta (Jonava, Lithuania), Rutgers University men’s basketball (3-1) led from start to finish to defeat Hampton University (1-2), 66-52, on Sunday afternoon at the Rutgers Athletic Center. The contest was part of the Triple Crown Cancun Challenge.
“Our playing zone and mental toughness really grinded the game out,” said second-year head coach Mike Rice after the game. “We made them shoot low percentage shots. At those times that they did drop their heads to attack, they ran into Austin Johnson’s big chest. It was a nice team defensive effort.”
The zone defense of Rutgers forced many long, astray three-pointers from Hampton, leading to numerous fastbreak attempts the other way. The Scarlet Knights totaled 17 fastbreak points on the afternoon.
Biruta notched his third career double-double with 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds to lead the attack. The sophomore also knocked down seven-of nine foul shots. Freshman Jerome Seagears added 10 points and three assists off the bench to help improve the Scarlet Knights to 3-0 at home this season.
Rutgers took advantage of free throw opportunities early and often, converting 23-of-27 from the charity stripe. That included 15-of-18 in the first half as the Pirates went into the penalty just 4:13 into the game.
RU also controlled the glass throughout, out-rebounding the Pirates 47-33. Additionally, Rutgers forced 26 turnovers, turning them into 26 points of their own to keep the pressure on Hampton. Junior Dane Miller (Rochester, N.Y) crashed into the Gatorade cooler in the second half for a loose ball, displaying the type of energy and grit the Scarlet Knights showed on this day.
Even though Rutgers controlled the game all the way through, Hampton made an 11-0 run to bring the score to 51-46 with 6:06 remaining in the second half. However, the Scarlet Knights responded with an 11-0 of their own to put the margin out of reach after Rice called timeout to regroup the team. The lead grew to as big as 17 with 1:14 to go.
Rutgers jumped out of the gates quickly, scoring the first six points of the game and never looked back from there. Hampton brought the deficit to 11-10 after a three-pointer from Jasper Williams, but could never tie the score or take the lead from RU at any point in the game.
Biruta recorded a game-high nine points in the first half to go with four rebounds and four steals in the opening period, including and a fastbreak dunk off the alley-off from Seagears to bring the crowd to their feet and give the Scarlet Knights a nine-point lead with 9:23 left in the period.
With the game within striking distance towards the end of the first half, RU went on a 10-2 run to gain an 30-20 lead with 25 seconds left, but Hampton’s Jasper Williams hit a long triple at the horn to set the halftime score at 30-23 in favor of Rutgers.
Derrick Randall (Brooklyn, N.Y.) also had five rebounds off the bench in the first half.
The Pirates – the defending MEAC champions and 2011 NCAA Tournament participant – were led by a game-high 21 points from senior Darrion Pellum.
Rutgers continues the Triple Crown Cancun Challenge on Tuesday in Cancun, Mexico, taking on Illinois State on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
- Gilvydas Biruta notched the third double-double of his career with 17 points and a career high 12 rebounds.
- Biruta scored in double-figures for the second-straight game and 21st time in his career. It marked the second time this season and fourth overall the sophomore has grabbed 10-plus boards.
- Biruta led the squad in scoring for the fifth time and in rebounding for the third time this year and 14th time in his career.
- Jerome Seagears tallied double-figures for the second-straight game with 10 points.
- The Scarlet Knights held a team to 52 points for the first time since Dec. 23, 2010 against Saint Peter’s.
- Rutgers defense held its second opponent to under 40 percent shooting (Dartmouth). The Scarlet Knights also forced Hampton into 26 turnovers.
- For the second time this season, RU led its opponent wire-to-wire. Last season, Rutgers did not allow a lead against two teams (DePaul and NJIT).
- Rutgers defeats Hampton in the teams’ first meeting. The Scarlet Knights sit at 10-0 all-time against current members of the MEAC.
- For the third time this season, Rutgers had less than three players score in double-digits. RU is 2-1 when that happens. Last season, Rutgers was 2-10 when two or less players had 10-plus.
- RU has won five-straight on Nov. 20, holding a 5-1 all-time record on this date.
- Austin Johnson drew two charges on the Pirates, bringing his total for three on the year. The Scarlet Knights have combined for six charges through four games this season.
- The 15 free throws made in the first half was the most for the Scarlet Knights since Jan. 30, 2010, when RU made the same amount in the second half against Notre Dame.
- RU moves to 2-0 when opponents score 56 points or less.
- Head coach Mike Rice went with the starting lineup of Eli Carter, Myles Mack, Dane Miller, Gilvydas Biruta and Austin Johnson for the fourth-straight game..
Head Coach Mike Rice
Opening Statement: “Most coaches, after shooting 24 percent in the first half, would have been a raving lunatic. I hugged almost each and every one of my players because I was so proud of the fact that you could be that bad on offense and not have it affect how they played on defense. Our playing zone and our mental toughness really grinded the game out. We were disciplined, we talked about not being drawn into their quick shots. We made them shoot low-percentage shots. At those times that they did drop their heads to attack, they ran into Austin Johnson’s big chest. It was a nice team defensive effort.”
On Dane Miller #11 diving into the Gatorade cooler: “That’s what leaders are supposed to do. I don’t know what clicked, but there’s certainly a difference in Dane. That’s infectious. Now this is what all of the first years guys are going to look up to. I appreciate his intensity and his passion. “
Head Coach Edward Joyner Jr.
On the difference in today’s game: “For them, they made shots. They were able to settle down. (Gilvydas Biruta) probably averages about a double-double. He did a good job. He was able to get himself to the free-throw line. (Jerome Seagears), the freshman, did a good job. I think that was the difference. Not saying that I think we weren’t here. They made shots and they protected their home court. They did a good job.“
On how playing on the road against a BIG EAST team can help them going forward: “Down the road, any game we play, win lose or draw, you have to be able to rebound and you need to be able to respond. Now, understanding the level of competition we play here (against Rutgers), probably isn’t to the level of what were going to see night in and night out. Like I told the guys, they put forth the effort to win a ball game. We just made a lot of bad plays when it counted. We got it to five, then we had a turnover and we gave up a three, so then its ten again. You put forth the effort, but you have to put forth the understanding to close out and try to win a ball game.”