PISCATAWAY, N.J. (November 17, 2011) – The Sacred Heart Pioneers held a 35-32 lead at the half over Rutgers Thursday night at The RAC but a blistering second half offensive performance powered the Scarlet Knights to a 91-75 win in Cancun Challenge opener for both teams. Rutgers shot a sizzling 80.8% making 21-of-26 while lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 59 points in the second half en route to the win.
In a tail of two halves, the Pioneers (2-1) owned the first 20 minutes of play, trailing just twice on their way to a three-point lead at the break. The Pioneers shot 50.0% (13-26) in the first stanza and only 12 turnovers blemished the SHU stat sheet. The Knights turned it over nine times but the Pioneers took full advantage turning those miscues into 13 points at the other end.
Sophomore Chris Evans (Stamford, CT) fed r-junior Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ) a perfect lead pass for an easy lay-in at 13:38, forcing RU coach Mike Rice to burn a time-out down 12-7. R-Freshman Steve Glowiak (New Britain, CT) extended it to a 14-7 lead with a long two-point make from deep in the right corner. R-Junior Shane Gibson (Killington, CT) buried his first shot of the night, a long straight-away three and sophomore Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT) followed that up with a baseline jumper for a 19-11 with 10:30 to go.
Gibson would drill his second three of the half to push the lead to 24-19 but Rutgers put together a quick 6-0 spurt to take their first lead since the 18:57 mark. Freshman guard Myles Mack made a steal and hit fellow rookie Eli Carter on a nice cut to the hoop and the Scarlet Knights would go up 25-24 on their next possession thanks to a pair of Mike Poole free throws. The lead wouldn't last long as SHU freshman Phil Gaetano (Wallingford, CT) buried a long three with a hand in his face to go up 27-25 with 4:29 on the clock. SHU forced RU to take a second time out off a Gibson to Glowiak fast-break lay-in pushing the Pioneer lead to 31-25. Rutgers pulled within one thanks to a 7-2 spurt but the Pioneers got a pair of Kelley free throws with five ticks left and went to the locker room up 35-32.
The second half was all Rutgers as the Knights came out flying offensively and knocked the Pioneers off their game. The Scarlet Knights held SHU to just one field goal over the first 7:04 and in that span used a 20-5 run to take the lead for good.
SHU turned in over six times in the first 3:30 of the half, needing a timeout at 16:33 trailing 45-38. Out of the timeout, the Knights went up by 10 on a three by Seagears and continued to pour it on. Rutgers would go on to make eight of their first 10 shots of the half, turning SHU over nine times to push their lead to 54-40 lead seven minutes in.
Sacred Heart scratched together a 14-6 rally over the next four minutes to pull back within six. A three from Glowiak on the break cut the lead to 10 while Swidowski made a steal and Gibson converted at the other end to cap the run cutting the Rutgers lad to 60-54 with 9:36 left.
The rally would be short lived as Rutgers put the game out of reach over the next four minute stretch outscoring SHU 19-5 to see their lead hit the 20-point mark, 79-59, with just under five to play.
In addition to Seagears 17 off the bench, Dane Miller and Poole chipped in with 14 each while Carter and Gilvydas Biruta totaled 13 point nights. As a team, Rutgers finished the game shooting 63.0% (34-54).
The Pioneers got 16 points from Kelley who finished a perfect five-of-five from the field to go with four assists. Gibson netted 14 before fouling out and Swidowski and Glowiak each had 10 points. SHU shot 51.1% (24-47) as a team in the loss.
"As a team, we have to regroup and play as well as we did in the first half. We had a good first half. Over the past few years, our defense has not been that good for us. The first few games this season we played well and then in the first half tonight, we played well."
The Pioneers will play at the University of Richmond on Saturday afternoon in game two of the 2011 Cancun Challenge. SHU tips-off with the Spiders at 5:00 pm and following the game will head to Cancun, Mexico for a pair of games. The Pioneers play Hampton on Tuesday at 4:00 pm and either Lipscomb or Southern Illinois Edwardsville on Wednesday.