- Associated Press - Sunday, November 12, 2017

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - As he stood outside Rutgers‘ locker room, an elderly woman came up to Mike Williams to tell him what everyone had just witnessed. “You changed the game when you came in,” the woman said.

Williams had 23 points and four steals and Eugene Omoruyi had a career-high 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks as much-needed sparks off the bench to lead Rutgers past Central Connecticut State 71-67 on Sunday.

“I don’t worry about who’s starting,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “Mike just keeps playing like this, I won’t be able to take him off the court. Same thing (with Omoruyi). Eugene could start, too.”

After taking a 2-0 lead, Rutgers trailed most of the first half before Williams‘ pair of free throws gave the Scarlet Knights (2-0) a 28-26 lead with 2:04 left in the first half before taking a 30-29 halftime lead.

“Our defense was awful,” Pikiell said. “We got to be better.”

CCSU tied it at 32 with 18:33 to play thanks to a layup by Tyler Kohl and again at 44, courtesy of a Kohl 3-pointer, before the Blue Devils retook the lead after a pair of Joe Hugley free throws to make it 46-44 with 10:27 to play. Williams answered with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 9:26 remaining to give Rutgers a 47-46 lead and start a 17-2 run over the next 4:09. Down 65-50, CCSU went on an 11-0 run before Rutgers closed out the game.

“For some reason we came out a little sluggish and lackadaisical and I was trying to tell my guys, ‘Come on. We’re better than this,’” Williams said. “I came in and I was going to try and make the most of my opportunity here and my shots kept going in for me.”

Kohl scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench for CCSU (0-2) while Mustafa Jones scored 14 points.

“We will be fine,” CCSU assistant coach Mike Witcoskie said. “If we continue to grow, there are things we need to improve on. We have to improve, we can’t stay still. If we continue to improve by the time NEC play comes along, we’ll be a very good team.”

Deshawn Freeman added 11 points and seven rebounds for Rutgers.

BIG PICTURE

CCSU: Despite being picked to finish ninth in the Northeast Conference coaches poll, the Blue Devils should gain some confidence by hanging with a Big Ten team.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have a weak nonconference schedule and won’t play a team from a Power Five conference until hosting Florida State of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Nov. 28. After today’s performance, it looks like Rutgers will benefit from the soft schedule, giving them time to gel.

PLAYING THROUGH PAIN

After missing the season opener with a knee injury suffered in an exhibition against St. John’s, Williams said he has a bruised knee.

“I can’t injure it worse,” Williams said. “It’s the amount of soreness I can take.”

NO HEAD COACH

CCSU head coach Donyell Marshall was not on the bench because he has been suspended. The suspension is “due to a confidential personal matter currently under investigation by the university,” according to a CCSU statement.

SHOOTING STRUGGLES

Rutgers struggled shooting, going 35.4 percent from the field and 4-of-14 from beyond the arc. However, it was an improvement in 3-point shooting for the Scarlet Knights, who went 2-of-17 from 3 in the season opener against the City College of New York.

“As long as we’re getting good looks I don’t worry,” Pikiell said of the 3-point struggles, adding, “As long as we take good shots.”

UP NEXT

CCSU finishes a stretch of three games in five days against tri-state-area teams when they travel to St. John’s on Tuesday.

Rutgers also caps off three games in five days to open the season when they host Cleveland State on Tuesday.

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