Ron Harper Jr. led five Rutgers players in double figures with 18 points as the 24th-ranked Scarlet Knights never trailed en route to an 86-63 victory over Sacred Heart on Wednesday night in Piscataway, N.J.
Rutgers (1-0) began a season as a ranked team for the first time since 1978, but the news was not all good in a game it led by as many as 25 points.
Second-leading returning scorer Geo Baker injured his ankle attempting a 3-pointer with about four minutes left in the first half, did not return and watched the second half sporting crutches.
Harper made 9 of 18 shots and also tied a career high by grabbing 10 rebounds as Rutgers shot 60.6 percent and outrebounded Sacred Heart by a 46-31 margin
Montez Mathis added 17 while Paul Mulcahy chipped in a career-high 15 points and tied a career high with seven assists.
Clifford Omoruyi made an impressive debut as the Scarlet Knights’ starting center, collecting a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The first consensus top-50 prospect to commit to Rutgers since 2010, Omoruyi made all six of his shots and helped the Scarlet Knights produce a 72-32 edge in points in the paint.
Aaron Clarke led the Pioneers with 17 points but shot 7 of 18 from the field. Mike Sixsmith added 11 points and Matas Spokas contributed 10 for the Pioneers, who shot 37.3 percent on field-goal attempts.
Rutgers started sluggishly before gradually taking control. The Scarlet Knights took their first double-digit lead on a dunk by Harper with 5:56 remaining in the half, then went on a 15-6 run to take a 40-25 lead into intermission.
Rutgers made its first six shots of the second half and opened a 52-30 lead on a jumper by Omoruyi with 16 1/2 minutes left. Sacred Heart was within 62-48 on a 3-pointer by Sixsmith with about 11 minutes remaining, but Rutgers quickly expanded the margin again.
–Field Level Media