RICHMOND — Richmond-Burton guard Sam Kaufman was tired of hearing about Genoa-Kingston and the Cogs' good season.
"We hear about them all the time and, before the season, we heard them say 'win conference or bust' ", Kaufman said. "Anytime you hear something like that you want to come out and take it to them."
The Rockets did just that in a 66-52 win over the visiting Cogs in a Big Northern Conference East division game.
R-B jumped out to an early 9-2 lead, forcing a Cogs' timeout, behind points from five different players including seven from freshman center Joe St. Pierre. With the big man working under the basket, the floor opened up for the Rockets' shooters who moved the ball around effectively.
Kaufman, who had 10 of his game-high 18 points in the first half, got the already energized crowd on its feet when he dunked after grabbing an offensive rebound to put the Rockets up 25-16 midway through the second quarter, forcing another G-K timeout.
"It's a huge statement for us to beat them," Kaufman said. "This was one of our better games and it's a statement to the rest of the conference that we're still here."
Coming out of the half, R-B started fast once again behind Mike Kaska's three 3-pointers on three straight possessions. When the Cogs shifted their focus to Kaska, who had the hot hand, the Rockets found other ways to score as Reggie Banks added points in the paint along with Danny Rygiel and Jake Kaufman.
"That first half of basketball helped because you're feeling good," Kaska said of his nine points in the first 1:36 of the third quarter. "It feels great when your teammates find you when you're open and have confidence in you to make plays."
While the Rockets (14-4 overall, 4-1 BNC East) cruised offensively throughout, coach Brandon Creason was more excited about his team's defensive effort, something that had been lacking recently.
Creason put a huge emphasis on defense in the practices leading up to the game and was happy to positive results after the work. The Cogs (12-7, 3-1) have some explosive players on offense like guard Tommy Lucca, who scored a team-high 13 points, and was the target of an aggressive Rockets defense.
"I thought that we anticipated really well tonight especially on defense," Creason said. "Defense is the one thing I tried to get us back to and we really focused on defensive intensity and the kids responded."
The Rockets forced eight first-half turnovers, 13 on the game, which helped take G-K out of rhythm on offense.
"We felt like we couldn't let this one get by," Creason said. "If we fall down two games (in conference play), it would be a real big climb and we thought that this is one that couldn't get away."