Tonight is the first major test of the young season for Rutgers, as the team takes on St. John's at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, Queens. We learned about the current state of the St. John's team from Norman at Rumble In The Garden, and discussed recruiting battles between the two schools. It's time to discuss tonight's game!
How to Watch & Listen
TV: Fox Sports 1 at 7pm
Radio: Rutgers IMG Radio Network - WOR (710) and WCTC (1450AM) with Chris Carlin and Joe Boylan. Also, you can listen to Rutgers student radio station WRSU (88.7 FM) - Gabe Sustick & Andrew Fafalios. Also on Sirius Radio Channel 125 & XM Radio 196
Five Things to Watch For:
Avoiding Foul Trouble
Rutgers has committed 52 fouls combined in their first two games at home. They have had multiple players with 4 fouls in both games. With Shaq Doorson out indefinitely, that leaves Eddie Jordan with just 10 scholarship players. They can't afford to be in constant foul trouble against better competition, starting tonight. The frontcourt is of particular concern, as senior center Greg Lewis and backup Ibrahima Diallo have had no less than 3 fouls in either game. They will be challenged tonight in going up against St. John's center Yankuba Sima. He is a fierce shot blocker, but also has a propensity for fouls. Whichever frontcourt stays out of foul trouble will give their team a big edge. Of course, this could turn into an old school Big East brawl where everyone is in foul trouble, making it a free throw contest. Let's hope not but if it does, Rutgers must take advantage of their opportunities on the line.
Rutgers has turned it over 20 times in both games so far, something they must improve on tonight. St. John's has had issues as well, averaging 16 turnovers a game. This game could get ugly and Rutgers will need to keep their composure on the road. Mentally they can't meltdown if they make a few mistakes or have calls go against them. St. John's has played well on the defensive end so far and Rutgers will need to move the ball around and stay patient. On defense, I expect Eddie to call the fullcourt press early and often, testing St. John's freshman point guard Federico Mussini. It will be the Italian's biggest test of his young career, which leads to our next key factor....
Corey Sanders v. Federico Mussini
This is a battle of dynamic freshman point guards, going head to head in the first big game of their careers. Mussini was a huge pickup on the recruiting trail for head coach Chris Mullin, as he chose St. John's over Gonzaga and Virginia. He has started strong on the offensive end, leading the Red Storm in scoring with 18 points per game and 4 assists per game. Mussini can also shoot the three ball, connecting on 4 of 9 in his first two games. Sanders needs to be disciplined on defense and keep Mussini in front of him, cutting off space to drive.
This is a major test for Sanders in that he will need to take on the opponent's leading scorer while also running the Rutgers offense, all on the road. He needs to keep the Rutgers offense moving, taking advantage of the break when possible, and continually feed the low post in the halfcourt. Rutgers cannot afford to get stagnant in the offense and settle for jump shots. Feeding Freeman and Foreman in the lane and getting to the rim for high percentage shots is key. It all starts with Sanders. It's likely that whichever guard outplays the other will decide the outcome of the game.
Rutgers has shot 7-32 from three-point range in two games this season. Mike Williams is 2 for 10, although he has played well in all other areas so far, being a tough and scrappy workhorse for this team. Bishop Daniels and Jonathan Laurent are not strong from long range and are just 1-9 combined. They need to focus on driving to the rim and using their athleticism more going forward.
Justin Goode and Omari Grier have the potential to light it up from long range and could be key tonight. They both have a lot to prove still on the defensive end, which could limit their minutes tonight. Rutgers needs to shoot from a better percentage from three-point range overall and hit a couple early. Sima will test their interior scoring with his shot blocking skills and in order to open up the lane, they need to knock down some perimeter shots.
Eddie Jordan v. Chris Mullin
This is the first big game of Mullin's coaching career and it will be interesting to watch he and Jordan go head to head. Expect Jordan to continue mixing up defensive looks, working in the fullcourt press and 2-3 zone. He will try to confuse Mussini and get the St. John's offense out of rhythm. The Red Storm settled for three-point shots and struggled at times against Wagner's zone defense, so Eddie may call for more zone than he did the first two games. It could help keep the team out of foul trouble as well. Mullin will want his team to push the ball whenever possible, so Rutgers needs to slow them down. As for St. John's on the defensive end, they have played mostly man to man and done well in their first two games, forcing their opponents into shooting a low percentage. The poker game between the two coaches will be fun to watch, as they make in-game adjustments and rotate different lineups.
After an ominous preseason, one team is going to walk out of Carnesecca Arena 3-0 and feeling pretty good Thursday night. Intriguing matchup— Jerry Carino (@NJHoopsHaven) November 17, 2015