By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Throughout nonconference play, Rutgers has been notorious for blowing big leads to inferior teams. 15 to 20 point leads quickly went down to one-possession games as Rutgers would have to eek out victories.
That wasn’t the case tonight. Paced once again by sophomore guards Eli Carter (20 points) and Myles Mack (15 points) – who have scored in double digits for the ninth straight game – Rutgers (8-2) cruised to a 79-55 victory over Howard (3-10) in one of their easiest wins of the season.
“We addressed it over the last three days because again, that has been our saga throughout this year thus far. A little bit of prosperity, don’t know how to handle it,” interim head coach David Cox said. “So we focused in on that.”
Which is why – before things could start to slip away – Cox called a time out when Howard cut the lead to 64-49. He wanted to give a reminder to his players before they had to hold off another team in the waning moments for a win.
“Just to talk about how to handle the situation,” Cox said. “How do we want to finish this game? How do we want to go into the break? Are we getting better? Are we climbing the mountain or are we stagnant and regressing as a team.
“I think they took that to heart and over the last [few] minutes we showed that we’re maturing, we’re starting to grow.”
Aside from holding on to a big lead in the drubbing, most surprisingly is when it came.
Before a holiday break.
Since 2008, Rutgers has lost three of the five pre-Thanksgiving games.
In Mike Rice’s first two seasons as head coach, the final pre-Christmas games haven’t come easy either. Last year they were tied with lowly NJIT at the half and escaped a game against St. Peter’s with a 55-52 win.
“We knew what it was because of the previous years,” senior forward Austin Johnosn said. “I remember how bad we were my sophomore year when it was our first year with Rice and it was against St. Peter’s and we just came out really stagnant and slow so we didn’t want to do that.”