Rutgers Scarlet Knight vs DePaul Blue Devils
Steve Pikiell looks to become the first Rutgers coach to start his tenure at 3-0 in more than 70 years when the Scarlet Knights head to Chicago to take on host DePaul on Thursday as part of the Gavitt Games (Enter Contest). The Scarlet Knights dispatched Molloy and Drexel with relative ease. Rutger gave their new coach a chance to match Donald S. White, who opened 3-0 in 1945-46.
Five players are scoring in double figures for Rutgers. Four of them are shooting better than 47 percent. Junior Nigel Johnson and senior C.J. Gettys lead the pack. The fast start is certainly encouraging for a program that lost 18 of its final 19 games under former coach Eddie Jordan, but a fairly weak non-conference schedule won’t do much for possibly contending in the Big Ten. Eli Cain followed up his solid freshman campaign with 21 points in DePaul’s season-opening victory over Robert Morris, but coach Dave Leitao will expect better. The Blue Demons were outrebounded nearly 2-1 on the offensive glass and had more turnovers than assists, a trend that cannot continue if they hope to post their first winning season since 2006-07.
ABOUT RUTGERS (2-0)
Judging by his performance so far which includes a pair of double-doubles, junior Deshawn Freeman is looking to make up for lost time. Freeman, a 6-7 forward, started last season strong by averaging 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, but missed the final 27 games after being suspended by Jordan for an inability of meet team requirements. Freeman, Gettys and sophomore Jonathan Laurent have combined to shoot 60.4 percent this season, which is welcome news for a program that struggled in that department in recent seasons. Mike Williams is the other Rutgers player averaging double figures and he is tops on the team in 3-point makes and attempts (5-for-13).
ABOUT DEPAUL (1-0)
Leitao, who went 58-34 in his first stint with DePaul from 2002-2005, used only nine players in the opening win and seven of them contributed significant minutes. After Cain, Tre’Darius McCallum was probably the most active player, leading the Blue Demons with eight rebounds and six assists. Billy Garrett, Jr., who averaged 12 points or better in each of his first three seasons, had 10 points to begin his final year but struggled with his shot, which has been the case throughout his career as he’s never shot 40 percent in a season.