PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — It was the first litmus test for Florida State and Rutgers on Tuesday night.
CJ Walker scored 24 points and Phil Cofer added 19 to lead the unbeaten Seminoles past Rutgers 78-73.
“It was a tremendous test for us,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. “This was the kind of game I thought we really needed.”
Walker was 6 of 11 from the floor and made 10 of 11 free throws. Cofer was 7-of-11 shooting and made four 3-pointers. Ike Obiagu grabbed 10 rebounds and chipped in five points for Florida State (6-0).
Eugene Omoruyi scored 22 points to lead Rutgers (6-1). Corey Sandersadded 20 points, and Deshawn Freeman followed up his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
“Eugene has been awesome,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “He’s the most improved guy in our program. I’ve been saying that. Brings it every night. He’ll get better and better. I’m excited about his progress.”
Freeman energized the crowd when he was fouled by Mfiondu Kabengele, raising his arms several times to get the crowd to its feet with 14:35 remaining. Rutgers went on to take a 44-41 lead after Omoruyi converted the 3-point play and Freeman made a pair of free throws.
Walker then scored the next 11 points for the Seminoles, hitting 5 of 7 from the line and a pair of 3-pointers. Trent Forrest made a layup and Florida State led 53-45 with 12:28 to play.
“We’re accustomed to playing against crowds like this: passionate crowds in the ACC. But I thought our kids showed a lot of character,” Hamilton said. “Obviously CJ just recognized something when his teammates were in foul trouble, and he stepped up a little bit.”
“It was really my teammates,” Walker said. “I hit a shot, then I hit another one and my teammates knew it was my time. They let me just put the team on my back and they just went with me.”
The Scarlet Knights pulled to 69-66 after Omoruyi’s layup with 1:56 to go, but they didn’t get closer.
Florida State: The Seminoles have not been 6-0 since 2008-09. As the first true road game, it was a good tuneup before they travel to No. 6 Florida where an upset would be a nice resume builder.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights will have to regroup quickly as they start Big Ten Conference play on the road at No.12 Minnesota before hosting No. 3 Michigan State on Tuesday night.
“Every game we play we have somebody different, a new leading scorer,” Hamilton said. “We’re still trying to find ourselves, very similar to Rutgers. I thought the deciding factor was that we had a guy (Walker) that was able to make some plays down the stretch and hit some free throws. That put us in a good position to win the game.”