PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — After giving up 80 points in Saturday’s loss to St. Bonaventure, Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell wanted to see a better defensive effort. He got it on Wednesday night when his defense held a team averaging 88.5 points to under 60.
Caleb McConnell had 16 points and six rebounds and Akwasi Yeboah provided a spark off the bench with 13 points to lead the Scarlet Knights past Stephen F. Austin 69-57 in the first meeting between the schools.
“It’s just a mentality really,” Yeboah said. “I know what I can do, and it doesn’t matter if I’m coming off the bench or starting. I’m still going to come in and impact the game.”
Rutgers (4-1) jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the wire-to-wire win, prompting a Stephen F. Austin (4-1) to call timeout 2:15 into the game. The Scarlet Knights would lead by as many as 14 points, before taking a 31-26 halftime advantage.
Rutgers stretched the lead to 16 on a couple of occasions in the second half before Stephen F. Austin cut the deficit to 57-49 on a Gavin Kensmil layup with 4:14 to go. Yeboah answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play following the layup to put Rutgers back up double-digits.
The Lumberjacks made one final push, making it 62-55 on a layup by Kevon Harris with 1:37 to play.
Harris led Stephen F. Austin with 18 points. Kensmil added 11 points and 10 rebounds, and John Comeaux chipped in 14 points.
Rutgers will now have nearly week off before its next game on Tuesday.
“They need some time off,” Pikiell said. “We’ve had quite a stretch here, and we’re a little banged up, but you got to get better. It’s a great week to get better.”
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights bounced back from their first loss of the season to St. Bonaventure. They’ll have two cupcakes left before traveling to Pitt of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and then it’s a couple of Big Ten games, starting at No. 3 Michigan State on Dec. 8.
Stephen F. Austin: Picked to finish fourth in the Southland Conference, the Lumberjacks were off to a 4-0 start under fourth-year coach Kyle Keller. Entering Wednesday night, Kevon Harris led averaging 19.8 points while John Comeaux was ninth in the nation in steals with 12.
Rutgers: Host NJIT on Tuesday.
Stephen F. Austin: At No. 1 Duke on Tuesday.
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