Rutgers 83, Norfolk St. 59
After three straight losing seasons, Rutgers guard Mike Coburn will not take anything for granted, and he is making sure his teammates have the same mindset.
On Monday, Coburn delivered a fiery speech at practice about not looking past Norfolk State after a big win over Miami.
He backed it up Tuesday night by scoring 12 points and tying a career high with seven assists in helping the Scarlet Knights to their third straight win, 83-59, over the Spartans in a Philly Hoop Group Classic game.
''We had a big win Sunday but I told them it was only two games,'' said Coburn, Rutgers' lone four-year veteran. ''I told them this was a big game for us, just like Miami was and just like St. Joe's is on Friday.
''I told them to just treat every game the same and make it almost like your last game. Just go hard, never underestimate any team and just play our game. Forget about looking past a team, don't even look past the next possession.''
Rutgers (3-1) followed Coburn's advice and held a double-figure advantage for nearly the entire game. Norfolk State (1-3) had its lone lead at 5-4.
James Beatty led Rutgers with 18 points, shooting 6-for-8 and 5-for-6 from 3-point range. Gilvydas Biruta added 11 points and eight rebounds and Dane Miller and Mike Poole had 10 points each.
Rob Hampton led Norfolk State (1-3) with 19 points, while Rodney McCauley and Aleek Pauline had 13 apiece.
The Scarlet Knights have won three straight games by 15 points or more for the first time since December 2005, and three straight by 15 or more against all Division I opponents for the first time since December 1977.
Mike Rice became the first coach to start his Rutgers career 3-1 since Bob Wenzel in 1988-89. Wenzel led Rutgers to its last NCAA appearance in 1991.
''I liked how we came out and played the first half,'' Rice said. ''The second half, there were stretches we probably weren't as detail-oriented and let some things slip.
''But for a veteran group this is what I expect, guys coming out not looking past any team or any possession. For having just one day of practice, I thought they had a good first half.''
Leading 24-16, Rutgers went on a 20-6 run over the final 7:23 of the first half to open a 44-22 advantage. The Scarlet Knights made their final eight shots of the half, including five from 3-point range.
Rutgers hit 56.3 percent (18-for-32) in the first half and was 6-for-7 from 3-point range, while the Spartans shot just 7-for-19 and committed 12 turnovers.
Beatty scored eight of Rutgers' first 10 points in the second half as the Scarlet Knights continued to build on their advantage. Rutgers finished at 50 percent (33-for-66), was 9-for-16 on 3-pointers, held a 38-29 rebounding advantage and handed out 17 assists for the second straight game.
Rice feels the leadership of seniors Coburn, Beatty and Jonathan Mitchell has been key to the Knights' strong start.
''If players police themselves, it's better than if I'm scowling or screaming at them,'' Rice said. ''I think that's why they're playing so well. It means more to them.
''These guys are hungry. They want to win. They keep buying into it.''