Sanders leads Rutgers to 67-58 OT win over Northwestern
By MATT SUGAM
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) While Corey Sanders' offense will be shown on the highlight reel, coach Steve Pikiell focused on his star guard's defense in Rutgers' 67-58 overtime victory over Northwestern on Tuesday night.
"The heck with the offense, I thought his defense was spectacular the whole night," Pikiell said, adding, `'He was confident and he had a little swagger tonight and that's how I want him to play."
With senior captain Deshawn Freeman benched, Sanders had a game-high 30 points to lead Rutgers' effort at the RAC.
Sanders, who kept the Scarlet Knights (13-15, 3-12 Big Ten) alive all game, hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 56.
"I just ended up really open," Sanders said. "I didn't understand how open I was. Shot the ball."
It went in, as part of Rutgers' 32-13 run to end the game.
Derek Pardon hit his first six shots and had 13 rebounds to go along with 12 points to lead Northwestern (15-12, 6-8). Scottie Lindsey added 19 points and Aaron Falzon - who went 3 for 3 in the first half - had eight points off the bench for the Wildcats.
Pardon and Falzon started a combined 8-for-8 shooting in the first half. Northwestern finished a stretch of 5 of 6 games on the road.
"We won three of them," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "Went 3-3 during that stretch. Had an opportunity to go 4-2 and couldn't finish the deal."
Northwestern jumped out to an 8-2 lead on a Lindsey jumper assisted by Bryant McIntosh before Rutgers tied it at 10 on a Sanders layup.
The Wildcats almost pulled away early. Souf Mensah's bucket stopped Northwestern's 12-2 run and left Rutgers trailing 23-16. Northwestern went into the break up 33-24.
"We've been hanging in there in these games," Pikiell said. "And I knew if we just kept plugging away on the defensive end we'd get enough opportunities to score."
Northwestern: Losers of two in a row coming off a loss at Maryland, the Wildcats need to get back on track with a win as they try to build up a resume to make the NCAA Tournament after making it to the dance for the first time a season ago.
Rutgers: Picked to finish last in the Big Ten, Rutgers is trying to dig itself out of the basement of the conference as they snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Freeman didn't play for the first time this season because of a coach's decision. The senior captain started 31 of 33 games last year and all 17 this year.
Northwestern: Hosts No. 2 Michigan State on Saturday, at 1 p.m.
Rutgers: Travels to Maryland on Saturday night.
Updated February 14, 2018