Rutgers cruises past Drexel 87-66

Rutgers guard Nigel Johnson (0) makes a pass under the basket to forward Candido Sa, of Portugal, (21) during the second half of a NCAA college basketball game against Drexel, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers won 87-66. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Mel Evans/AP

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Rutgers is seven seasons and three coaches removed from their last 3-0 start.

But don't expect first-year coach Steve Pikiell to pay it any mind.

''We're 2-0 and we'll start preparing on Tuesday for DePaul,'' Pikiell said. ''We go one game at a time. I don't care about that stuff.''

Nigel Johnson came off the bench to score 15 points and Deshawn Freeman added 13 more while grabbing 10 rebounds to lead Rutgers past Drexel 87-66 on Sunday.

''Bench production is a lot of the reason how you can either win or how you can either lose,'' Johnson said. ''Usually the team that has the better bench is going to come out on top.''

Jonathan Laurent also had 15 points for Rutgers (2-0), C.J. Gettys had 13 with nine rebounds and Candido Sa had 11 points.

Rodney Williams led Drexel (0-2) with 24 points.

The only lead for Drexel was 5-4 with 18:48 left in the first half when Kurk Lee made a 3-pointer assisted by Miles Overton. Gettys answered for Rutgers with a layup on the next possession.

After a Kari Jonsson 3-pointer assisted by Miles Overton to pull Drexel within two with 4:24 left before the break, Rutgers went on a 13-0 run to close the half. Johnson lead the way with five points to give Rutgers a 41-28 lead.

''Eventually during the course of a game when your offense isn't where you need it to be, if the other time is not scoring, you're in great shape and they did a great job closing out that half,'' Pikiell said.

Rutgers took its largest lead of the game with 1:08 to play, when Corey Sanders hit a pair of free throws to make it 85-60.

''It is a process and every game is a learning moment. I told the guys that we need to be immune to the result, win or lose. That's what consistent teams do. You can't get too high or too low,'' Drexel coach Zach Spiker said. ''But we certainly go back to campus with a clear plan of what we need to do to improve.''

Earlier, the Scarlet Knights opened the second half by stretching the lead to 18 when Deshawn Freeman got a three-point play after being fouled by Sammy Mojica on the layup, making it 44-26 with 19:34.

Drexel pulled to within 13 after Rodney Williams hit a layup to make it 58-45 with 10:39 to go.

BIG PICTURE

Rutgers: Among the Scarlet Knight's many struggles last year that resulted in a 7-25 campaign, 1-17 conference record and the firing of coach Eddie Jordan, was a short bench. Rutgers displayed that they have much more help off the bench this year. After playing nine players off the bench in the season opening 86-57 win against D-II Molloy, Pikiell played a steady 10-man rotation.

Drexel: The Dragons appear to have found an impactful freshman guard in Lee. After 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in his collegiate debut, Lee had 14 points, six assists and two steals.

SHOOTING STRUGGLES

After shooting just 31.7 percent on 20-of-63 in a season-opening loss at Monmouth, Drexel improved their shooting against Rutgers. Slightly. The Dragons shot 38.2 percent from the line on 26-of-68 shooting.

CLEANING THE GLASS

Rutgers dominated Drexel on the glass, outrebounding Drexel 56-29.

''I like those. Those are great numbers,'' Pikiell said, adding, ''We're emphasizing that and we got some big guys and they kind of went at it.

UP NEXT

Rutgers will look to go 3-0 for the first time since 2008-2009 when they travel to DePaul on Thursday.

Drexel will try to get its first win of the season when they host Hartford on Friday.