Tue, 12 Dec 2023

Backcourt providing early spark for Rutgers; Howard is next

Field Level Media
18 Nov 2023, 10:05 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Rutgers has played four games early in the new season, and the Scarlet Knights earned their biggest win so far by getting offense and defense to click simultaneously.

Rutgers (3-1) is leaning on its new-look backcourt as it prepares for another home contest Saturday evening against Howard in Piscataway, N.J.

Derek Simpson put up a team-high 15 points and four assists in Rutgers' 71-60 win over Georgetown on Wednesday. After a promising freshman season, Simpson is filling a larger role as Rutgers' starting point guard.

Alongside him, UMass transfer Noah Fernandes had 10 points and five rebounds, and both starting guards made two steals. Highly touted freshman Gavin Griffiths provided 12 points off the bench.

"I like these guards a lot," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "They practice hard, the right way. They're good guys and they watch film. It bodes well for us moving forward."

The Scarlet Knights were playing without guard Austin Williams, who is day-to-day with a knee injury suffered in practice. They're still waiting on forward Mawot Mag (ACL rehab) to make his season debut.

A program known for its defense under Pikiell, Rutgers opened the second half against the Hoyas with a lightning-quick 16-4 run. Fernandes and Aundre Hyatt (12 points) each had two 3-pointers in that surge.

"I think we're an 80-point team," Pikiell said. "We haven't quite gotten there yet, but that's kind of where I think we should be, and I think this group will take that stuff personal."

Howard (2-2) has earned a pair of wins at home against Hampton and Boston University while losing on the road to Georgia Tech (by three) and James Madison (a team now ranked No. 24).

The Bison rank near the bottom of Division I with an average of 16.5 turnovers per game.

"For us to move forward, valuing the ball and taking care of the turnovers is something that's going to be (important)," Howard coach Kenny Blakeney said after the season-opening win over Hampton.

Veterans Seth Towns and Jelani Williams made their season debuts Tuesday when Howard beat Boston 64-53. Towns, formerly of Ohio State, put up 13 points and six rebounds and Williams added seven points, six rebounds and four steals, both players coming off the bench.

Bryce Harris leads the Bison with 18.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Hyatt has paced Rutgers with 13.0 ppg.

--Field Level Media

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