- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2016

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) - Although Rutgers is 3-0 for the first time in eight years, Steve Pikiell isn’t ready to make any declarations about his team just yet.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,” the first-year coach said. “I’m happy we’ve got to a good start, but it doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot to me, honestly.

“We’re just trying to get these guys in the mode of defending and rebounding. It helps you win basketball games.”

Corey Sanders had 15 points, Mike Williams added 14 and nine rebounds and the Scarlet Knights used the defense-and-rebounding formula for a 66-59 victory over DePaul in the Gavitt Tip-Off Games on Thursday night.

Deshawn Freeman added nine points and nine rebounds as the Scarlet Knight built a 46-27 rebounding edge.

Eli Cain had 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting to lead DePaul.

Billy Garrett had just five points for the Blue Demons (1-1) on 1-for-11 shooting before fouling out with more than eight minutes remaining.

“I can get a little bit concerned because it’s the second game in a row where he’s got in foul trouble and hasn’t shot the ball well,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said.

“You can’t be talked about as one of the top seven, eight or nine best players in the (Big East) and not play well. That’s something we have to figure out.”

DePaul freshman Devin Gage suffered a right shoulder injury when he fell hard to the court with just under 12 minutes left. He did not return.

Rutgers took control with a 12-2 run for a 31-22 lead. The Scarlet Knights had a 33-26 halftime advantage.

Both teams shot poorly in the first half, but the difference for Rutgers was an 11-0 edge in second-chance points and a 29-8 first-half rebounding advantage.

The Scarlet Knights continued to expand the lead at the beginning of the second half and took a 54-32 advantage (their biggest of the game) on a basket by Shaquille Doorson with 10:39 to play.

“I thought our guys were kind of locked in and did a really good job defensively,” Pikiell said. “We’ve become a much improved defensive team and we’re a good rebounding team.”

DePaul made a furious late rally using pressure to pull within six points in the final minute, but dug too deep a hole.

“I think the beginning of the second half killed us,” Cain said. “We really couldn’t get anything good on the offensive end.”

BIG PICTURE

Rutgers: Although the Scarlet Knights are unbeaten, it’s way too early to tell whether the program is on the rebound. So far, the competition has been underwhelming (Molloy, Drexel and DePaul) and there was plenty not to like about this performance. Still, the defense and rebounding provide a good foundation to build upon.

DePaul: The Blue Demons don’t have a lot of offensive firepower to begin with, so scoring is especially difficult when Garrett has a poor shooting night. The lack of a post presence put all the pressure to provide offense on Cain, who had 21 points in the opener against Robert Morris.

OLD FRIENDS

Pikiell and Leitao both were assistants under former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun. Pikiell also played for Calhoun at UConn.

“Dave Leitao is like my hero,” Pikiell said. “He was my coach at UConn, I worked with him, he was mentor and I know what a great coach he is.”

UP NEXT

Rutgers looks to stay unbeaten when it hosts Niagara on Sunday.

DePaul plays the second of three straight home games Sunday against Milwaukee.

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