An easy victory over a lesser opponent is precisely what Rutgers needs when it matches up Monday with visiting Canisius in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Scarlet Knights earned two wins from three difficult games and now needs to take advantage of the Golden Griffins, who are coming off their first winning season in 12 years. Against Alabama-Birmingham and Yale, the Scarlet Knights lost a game they should have won, and won a game they should have lost.
The Scarlet Knights started poorly, but used a 23-14 run in the final eight minutes to overtake Yale. "I was very disappointed with how we started the game," head coach Eddie Jordan said. "But we just kept on digging and in the end we worked hard to get some breaks and made some big shots." J.J. Moore's 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Kadeem Jack were the biggest shots for Rutgers, which came away with the win only after Yale missed its final shot.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
ABOUT CANISIUS (1-1): The Golden Griffins opened the season with a victory at home against South Dakota, but were soundly beaten Saturday at St. Bonaventure, a school that current Canisius coach Jim Baron guided for nine seasons. Billy Baron, the coach's son, has scored 50 points in the first two games after leading the team in scoring last season with an average of 17.2 per game. This will be the Golden Griffin's first meeting with Rutgers, who are 55-19 all-time against teams from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
ABOUT RUTGERS (2-1): Malick Kone came up with a surprising performance against Yale, as he scored 12 points and pulled down five rebounds before fouling out. The only one other time the junior had scored in double-digits was when he had 17 points against Boston University last season. "He played fearless," Jordan said of Kone. "He defended, he rebounded very well for us. He stuck his nose in there defensively."
1. The winner of this game will play the winner of Elon and Drexel to decide who will advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
2. Arizona, Duke, Alabama and Rutgers are the top four seeds in the tournament.
3. The Scarlet Knights had a season-high 22 second-chance points against Yale.
PREDICTION: Rutgers 79, Canisius 61