Baker, Thiam lead Rutgers past Cleveland State, 70-38
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) After eking out a four-point victory against Central Connecticut State Sunday, Rutgers did what a Big Ten team is supposed to do against inferior opponents on Tuesday.
Geo Baker had 14 points and seven assists and Issa Thiam scored 14 points, was 4-of-8 from behind the three-point line and knocked down treys on three-straight possessions to lead Rutgers past Cleveland State, 70-38 on Tuesday night.
”We didn’t play Rutgers basketball at all last game,” Corey Sanders said. ”We started off slow and kind of took forever to pick it up and we never got it going like we usually do.”
That wasn’t the case against Cleveland State.
”Loved Issa. He’s gotten better,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. ”I loved the fact (that he had) seven rebounds.He’s been better. He’s been better all year. He’s been better in practice.Really pleased with his progress.”
Rutgers took a nine-point lead into halftime before jumping out to a 20-point lead early in the second half after back-to-back 3s by Thiam to make it 43-23 with 14:41 left. Thiam went on to hit another three on the third straight possession to make it 46-26.
From there, Rutgers cruised.
Cleveland State was led by Stefan Kenic with 12 points, while Kenny Carpenter added 11.
Sanders had a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Scarlet Knights.
”We had a lot of nice plays today,” Pikiell said. ”I think the film session is going to be a lot better than the other day.”
Cleveland State: The game was the first of two games against Big Ten opponents. The Vikings close out non-conference play at No. 2 Michigan State on Dec. 29.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights will get a few days off after starting the season with three games in five days. Their next game is Sunday.
NOT MUCH HISTORY
Tuesday’s game was only the second between the two schools with Cleveland State winning the first game 78-69 on Jan. 15, 1980.
Rutgers improved to 11-0 at home vs. non-conference opponents under Pikiell, the Scarlet Knights second-year coach.
FREE THROW STRUGGLES
Both teams struggled from the line. Cleveland State went 0-of-5 from the foul line in the first half while Rutgers went 1-of-3. Things got a little bit better in the second half as Cleveland State finished 3-of-11 while Rutgers went 5-of-11.
Late in the second half, Baker found Sanders for a nice alley-oop.
”We work on that alley-oop all the time in practice,” Baker said. ”We make that eye contact and he tells me just throw it and I’ll get it.”
Cleveland State has its home opener against Coppin State on Friday.
Rutgers hosts Coppin State on Sunday.