If Wednesday night's game against DePaul was a must win, this Providence game is equally important.
The Rutgers basketball team has a chance to have an overall record of .500 for the first time since Gary Waters final year in 2006. The seniors might have a chance to taste postseason play. And they'll have some much needed momentum going into a huge match-up with a suddenly hot Seton Hall during the first round of the Big East Tournament.
This is a huge game.
The keys after the jump...Break the press and get the ball inside... Rutgers was able to do this well in the first match-up with the Friars and against DePaul--two very similar teams. In the first game, Jonathan Mitchell constantly got lay-ups and was able to net 21 points. Gilvydas Biruta could be huge as well. Austin Johnson had his finest game of his career, scoring 16 points in in the first round at the RAC. If Rutgers gets lay-ups after breaking the press, they'll be in good shape.
Contain Marshon Brooks... One of the contenders for Big East Player of the Year, Brooks has been unbelievable this year. He was able to net 52 against Notre Dame a few weeks ago. It's also his senior night. Face it, he's going to score. The key is to make him work for it. Force him to take contested threes. Make him go to the line. Body him up, exhaust him. He's already going to be pumped up for his last home game ever. Use that against him, and don't let him get open looks and early confidence. At the same time, the rest of the team needs to be slowed as well. In the first match-up, Rutgers held Providence to twenty-nine percent shooting. That's important here as well.
Rebound, Rebound, Rebound and Control Tempo.... Enough said. This has been a key in every game. Rutgers has to keep crashing the boards. At the same time, they have to pick their spots to run out on fast breaks. The team isn't deep enough to get into a track meet. They're at their best when they play to the shot clock and take their time. Also, slowing their offensive possessions means Providence will get less possessions on offense as well.
Forget the Big East Tournament for a moment...The game against SHU is going to be huge. There's going to be a lot of buzz for this game. Rutgers can't get caught up in that. Focus on Providence possession by possession.
ALSO Forget Rutgers' History at the Dunkin Donuts Center... Rutgers has never played well at Providence. Even good Rutgers teams have been beaten there. The team can't get caught up in that. This Providence team isn't playing for anything beyond Brooks' numbers. Rutgers is. Focus on that.
The game is at 7 pm and only available on ESPN 3.