The final nonconference foe for the Rutgers men’s basketball team will be a familiar one for head coach Steve Pikiell.
Rutgers is slated to open the new year by closing out its nonleague slate Saturday afternoon, when the Scarlet Knights host Central Connecticut State in Piscataway, N.J.
Rutgers played for the first time in 18 days Thursday, beating Maine 80-64. Central Connecticut will be completing a back-to-back road set after earning a 67-55 win over St. Francis (NY) in a Northeast Conference game Friday afternoon.
Rutgers (6-5) was initially slated to host Central Connecticut on Dec. 23, but the Scarlet Knights postponed that game due to COVID-19 protocols. A home game scheduled against Rider on Dec. 18 was also initially postponed before being canceled.
Rutgers shook off the rust Thursday, when Ron Harper Jr. (19 points) led four players in double figures.
“We’re happy right now just to win a basketball game,” said Geo Baker, who scored nine points. “Winning in college basketball is hard enough no matter who you’re playing. It gets even harder when you’ve had 17 days off and just one practice.”
Ian Krishnan and Andre Snoddy each scored 14 points Friday for Central Connecticut (4-10), which overcame a 12-point second-half deficit.
Nigel Scantlebury leads Central Connecticut in scoring at 12.7 points per game but didn’t play Friday for the Blue Devils, who were picked to finish last in the 10-team Northeast Conference.
Pikiell spent four seasons (1997-2001) as an assistant coach at Central Connecticut, whose first-year head coach, Patrick Sellers, was an assistant alongside Pikiell in the final two seasons of that span.
In addition, Pikiell’s dad worked at Central Connecticut for 25 years. The Pikiell family grew up in Bristol, located a few minutes from the Central Connecticut campus in New Britain.
“We kind of grew up on that campus, my nine brothers and sisters,” Pikiell said.
Rutgers is 3-0 all-time against Central Connecticut. The two schools last opposed one another on Nov. 12, 2017, when the host Scarlet Knights dodged an upset bid and escaped with a 71-67 win.
–Field Level Media