Rutgers had to grind it out.
In the first half, Anthony Collins and the South Florida Bulls dictated the pace, and Rutgers played along with them. The play was slow, deliberate and ugly. South Florida was doing exactly what they wanted and had a 30-27 lead. Rutgers turned the ball over five times, and couldn't get out and run like they wanted. It appeared this game might be a lower scoring replay of the Cincinnati game, with Rutgers never able to dictate play.
Collins kept finding open forwards for alley oops, and Jawanza Poland was continually open at the 3 point line. And he made Rutgers pay.
That changed, however, right out of the gate in the second half. Rutgers pushed the ball, and Jerome Seagears played his best game of the season. Seagears finished with 7 assists, 5 points, and no turnovers. Myles Mack and Eli Carter did their part with 13 each, including two backbreaker points by Carter down the stretch. And Wally Judge was a beast. He dropped 14 points, while battling the entire time.
Rutgers pushed their lead to 8 a few times, but was never able to pull completely away. The Bulls wanted this game, and did not want to go 0-4 in the Big East. In the final seconds, Seagears missed a wide open three. The Bulls rushed up the court, and Martino Brock launched an off balance three of his own. It rimmed out.
And Rutgers survived.
Now they travel to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who hallucinate about girlfriends.
1. Dictate Pace: Rutgers wants to play fast. And St. John's proved that speed and athleticism kills. Rutgers' guards should be quicker than Notre Dame. They need to drive to the hoop, crash the boards, and get up and down the court as quickly as possible.
2. Extend the Zone and Jump to the Ball: Rutgers should force Notre Dame to take their threes from as far out as possible. Rutgers should press. And on switches, Rutgers should get out on their 3 point shooters as quick as possible. The Scarlet Knights are going give a bunch of different looks on defense, but they should all be focused on keeping Notre Dame from getting hot beyond the arc.
3. Survive the Whistle: Notre Dame always gets a quick whistle at home. Last year, Rutgers only had ten foul shots to ND's 32. Rutgers is going to have to survive that. Not much else you can do, other than hope the Irish don't make their free throws.
4. Attack the Basket: Time for the guards to start converting and ones. This is the best way to do it. Take it at Notre Dame's big guys. See if there's anyway you can get Jack Cooley in foul trouble.
5. Believe: Why not Rutgers?
Beers for the Notre Dame Game: Speakeasy Betrayal Imperial Red and Oskar Blues G'Knight Imperial Red.