PISCATWAWAY, N.J. (AP) The two main differences for Mike Williams this year are a boosted confidence and more opportunities with the graduation of Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack.
The sophomore didn't take long to show how those two facets would affect his game.
Williams scored 18 points, and recorded career highs with 11 rebounds and five steals, Friday night to lead Rutgers past Rutgers-Newark 72-59 in the season opener for both teams. It marked the first double-double of Williams' career.
''Last year I didn't have that much confidence in myself,'' Williams said. ''Coming from high school I was one of the best players in the tri-state area and I felt like I was limted because we had two main scorers (Jack and Mack) and had to get them the ball so I didn't have that much confidence in myself. But this year, coach gave me a bigger role.I just wanted to show what I worked on (all summer).''
Rutgers-Newark controlled most of the first half before going into the break tied at 33. Rutgers opened up the second half on a 5-0 run and never relinquished the lead.
''We got the jitters out,'' Williams said. ''We just have to calm down and we're going to get this W and that's what we did''
After sitting the first half due to a violation of team rules, Deshawn Freeman scored 13 points for Rutgers while D.J. Forman added 10.
Jordan McDaniel led Rutgers-Newark with18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. David Azoroh and John Snow were the only other Rutgers-Newark player to score in double figures, finishing with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
The Scarlet Knights slowly built a cushion and led by as many as 22 with 3:18 left after a pair of free throws by Justin Goode made it 69-47.
Freeman, a JUCO transfer, made his presence felt in the second half, helping Rutgers control the paint and bringing the crowd to its feet with a put-back dunk which gave Rutgers a 63-44 lead with 6:48 remaining.
''Deshawn, take your warm-up off and just go play. That was probably the biggest message,'' Coach Eddie Jordan said of the spark Freeman provided after sitting the first half.
Rutgers-Newark gave Rutgers all they could handle in the first half.
Ibrahima Diallo's layup put the Scarlet Knights up 23-21 with 5:42 left in the first half, but Rutgers-Newark answered the following possession with a 3 from Snow. The New Jersey schools would go back and forth for the remainder of the half before Vik Singh tied it up at 33 with a foul shot with 29 seconds left in the half.
''Our whole goal tonight was to play hard and compete. I thought we did that in the first half, but got a little wore out in the second,'' Rutgers-Newark coach Joe Loughran said. ''When you go against a bigger, stronger team, they are going to wear you out.''
Rutgers is entering its second year in the Big Ten and the win marks Rutgers' first victory since January 11, 2015, when it upset No. 4 Wisconsin at the RAC. The Scarlet Knights had dropped 15 straight.
''That was the biggest thing for us, but at the same time, that's in the past,'' Rutgers guard Bishop Daniels said. ''We got a new team and a new mindset and we're just trying to come out and win every game.''
Rutgers: Highly-touted recruit Corey Sanders sat out serving a one-game, self-imposed penalty from Rutgers and accepted by the NCAA for participation in a non-sanctioned basketball event over the summer.
Rutgers-Newark: While this game counted for Rutgers, it did not count for Rutgers-Newark. The game was considered an exhibition for the Division III school.
FREE THROW STRUGGLES
The Scarlet Knights struggled from the charity stripe, shooting just 58.3 percent (7-of-12).
TALE OF TWO HALVES
After shooting 50% in the first half on 12-of-24 shooting, Rutgers-Newark struggled in the second half. The Scarlet Raiders hit just 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) field goals after the break.
Rutgers: Rutgers hosts Howard on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Men Who Speak Up Main Event.
Rutgers-Newark: Rutgers-Newark goes on the road to take on Hunter College on Tuesday night.