Hartford holds off late rally, upsets Rutgers, 60-58
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Hartford had just upset a Big Ten team on its home court, but coach John Gallagher was already looking ahead.
The Hawks stunned Rutgers, 60-58 on Thursday night, handing the Scarlet Knights a second consecutive home court loss to a team from the America East Conference.
“We’re rolling pretty well right now,” Gallagher said. “The reality is we have to go to the No. 1 team in our league next Wednesday in Albany. We’ve won four of five and we’re starting to establish a great identity. We’re embracing the defense and we’re on the right track.”
Meanwhile, Rutgers has fallen off track.
John Carroll scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Hassan Attia scored 11 points to go with another nine rebounds to lead the Hawks to their first win at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights needed a late 20-5 run to recover from a 13-point deficit late and hold off Hartford last season.
Hartford (7-7) took at 39-35 lead with 15 minutes left in the game and pushed it to 43-36. Rutgers eventually took the lead at 55-53 with 2:34 left on a Mike Williams 3-pointer. Hartford tied the game at 55 before taking the lead on a dunk by Attia.
Corey Sanders, Rutgers’ star guard, was benched for the second time this season after missing a team flight. The first benching was for poor practice habits, coach Steve Pikiell said.
“He didn’t start,” he said. “He likes to start and I know Corey didn’t want to miss it. It happens. It’s a busy travel day. That wasn’t why we lost the basketball game today. And sometimes as the head coach you make decisions like that and he apologized to the team and you move forward. Guys miss flights. Guys get injured. Guys are sick. So we move forward.”
Sanders and Williams both came off the Rutgers bench and combined to score 30 points.
Sanders, who finished with 17 points, hit three free throws to get the Scarlet Knights (10-5) within a point in the final minute, but missed a jumper with :14 seconds left for the lead.
J.R. Lynch and Jason Dunne each had 14 points and combined to hit six 3s for the Hawks.
“There’s a lot more basketball to be played,” Williams said. “You can’t let these two losses - these two losses don’t define us. We know we’re a great ball club. We showed that. We just got to get back to playing Rutgers basketball.”
Hartford: Open America East Conference play at Albany on Wednesday.
Rutgers: Returns to Big Ten play at No. 14 Purdue on Wednesday.
Hartford: The Hawks got back to .500 with a big win heading into conference play with a win over a Power 5 team, their fourth win in the last five games.
Rutgers: Since upsetting No. 23 Seton Hall, Rutgers now has lost two back-to-back non-conference games, including an overtime loss to Stony Brook, where second-year Steve Pikiell last coached. The Scarlet Knights are 0-2 in Big Ten play and after winning three games last year and just six overall since entering the conference three years ago.
Rutgers came into the game shooting only 62 percent from the line and 42 percent from the field. The Scarlet Knights were worse tonight, shooting 55 percent and 35 percent for the game.
“Free throws all year long have been a problem that we’ve really tried to work on and spend a ton of time at free throw practices separately, so we just have to make some,” Pikiell said. “Some is experiences. Some’s mental toughness. It’s been a concern. It was a concern last year, too. When you’re in close games it’s really a weapon and you have to make free throws down the stretch.”