Six players were in double figures for Rutgers (2-1). Dane Miller and Mike Poole added 14 each, with all of Miller’s coming in the second half, while Gilvydas Biruta and Eli Carter had 13 apiece. Myles Mack chipped in with 10.
Sacred Heart (2-1) got 16 points from Evan Kelly, 14 from Shane Gibson and 10 each from Justin Swidowski and Steve Glowiak.
Trailing by three points, Rutgers used full-court pressure to key a 22-4 second-half run and take a 54-39 lead. The Pioneers committed eight turnovers during the Rutgers run.
Sacred Heart got within 60-54 before Rutgers pulled away and led by as much as 88-66 in the final minutes of the first of four Triple Crown Cancun Challenge games.
Sacred Heart led for nearly the entire first half, opening its largest leads at 17-9 and 19-11. Rutgers rallied for a 25-24 advantage before the Pioneers responded with seven straight points en route to a 35-32 halftime lead. Miller, Rutgers’ leading scorer entering the game with a 9.5 average, took just one shot in the first half but hit a bucket to get the Knights started after intermission. The sophomore wing tallied six of the first nine points in the Rutgers run.
Phil Gaetano’s 3-pointer gave Sacred Heart its final lead at 38-37. But a Miller foul shot tied it and Austin Johnson hit a jumper as Rutgers scored the next 13 points to take control.
Sacred Heart shot 51.1 percent (24 of 47) but that was offset by 22 turnovers. The Pioneers were looking for their first 3-0 start since 1994.
Mack had six assists for Rutgers, who shot 63 percent (34 of 54), and Miller made four steals.