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Rutgers Men's Basketball Game Preview: Central Arkansas

Rutgers looks to get back in the winning column after Thursday's loss to St. John's.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch:

5pm at the RAC

TV: BTN Plus is live streaming the game

Radio: Rutgers IMG Radio Network: 710 AM (WOR) & 1450 AM (WCTC). Rutgers Student Radio 88.7 FM (WRSU)

Opponent: Central Arkansas Bears 0-2

They are off to a rough start, losing to Tulsa and UMass by an average of 22 points, while allowing an average of 93 points on defense. This is a good opportunity for Rutgers to continue to get better and improve against an opponent they should handle. Central Arkansas likes to shoot the three and are 13-37 for the season. Senior Derreck Brooks and sophomore Jordan Howard lead the Bears out of the backcourt.

Five Things to Watch For:

Starting Lineup/Rotation

In Thursday's game against St. John's, Eddie Jordan started Corey Sanders, Mike Williams, Deshawn Freeman, D.J. Foreman and Greg Lewis.  After Bishop Daniels struggled in the first two games, he came off the bench and responded with a monster game. He had career highs of 21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals, easily the best performance of his Rutgers career.  It will be interesting to see what Jordan decides for this game and whether Daniels becomes the regular sixth man off the bench. He could also tweak the starting lineup game by game based on match-ups with each opponent.  This team has more versatility and top line depth than last season for sure.

As for the rest of the bench, Ibrahima Diallo will continue to see plenty of action but cannot get into foul trouble. That has been a challenge for him so far, getting charged with 12 fouls in three games and fouling out Thursday against the Johnnies.  Other than Daniels and Diallo, Justin Goode played 10 minutes Thursday and Jonathan Laurent just 5 minutes.  Eddie tightened up the rotation considerably against better competition.  Omari Grier did not play, a bit surprising considering he is a 5th year senior and is a proven three-point shooter.  How many minutes the players of the bench get today and how they are rotated in will be something worth keeping an eye on.

Defensive progress

Rutgers improved their halfcourt defense for most of the game against St. John's, holding them to just 32% shooting from the field.  Corey Sanders dogged Federico Mussini all night, keeping him off balance for the majority of the game.  Eddie worked in the 2-3 zone and fullcourt press and they had moderate success with it. They need to continue to tighten up on defense and be more effective with the press.  As a team they are fouling way too much and can't afford to be doing that game after game with their current depth of the roster.  If Rutgers can improve in that area and keep improving with their team defense, they will have a chance to stay in most games this winter.

Free Throw Shooting

A big reason Rutgers lost to St. John's was their poor shooting from the line, making just 5-14. They are just 44-72 as a team through three games, good for just 61%. Rutgers has to improve in this area, no matter who they are playing against.  This is an area where the loss of Myles Mack is showing up, as Mack was a career 86% free throw shooter on almost 400 career attempts.  Freshman Justin Goode and Jonathan Laurent have combined to shoot 12-12 from the line but in limited minutes.  The starters needs to focus on taking advantage at the line, a point I am sure Eddie and the staff have harped on since Thursday.

Corey Sanders

Sanders experienced ups and downs against St. John's, which was only just his second career college game and first career start.  His potential is enormous and he drove fellow freshman Federico Mussini crazy, running him around all night.  However, he forced some shots on offense and failed to get the ball to Daniels quick enough for a last second shot with the game on the line. The offense unraveled the last 12 minutes of the game. Sanders has to take control and not let that happen.  He has deferred at times to Daniels and Williams, as it is tough for a freshman to take the reigns over upperclassmen.  However, he must do so, as he has the ability to penetrate and feed the shooters on the wing or make the entry pass into the low post.  Rutgers cannot get in the habit of one pass and quickly shooting, which is what happened in the second half on Thursday.  Sanders is the key to the offense and can ensure breakdowns like that don't happen.  I expect he will play with more authority tonight.

Get the Win and Get Out

Rutgers has the chance to get the bad taste out of their mouths from Thursday's loss.  They are back at the RAC against an opponent they are more talented then.  Today is about playing better as a team and getting the victory.  They fly out to Las Vegas tomorrow for the Men Who Speak Up Main Event, where they play Creighton Monday night.  They will then play either Clemson or UMass, depending on the first game's outcome.  Those will be two big tests for this team, making a solid win imperative for today.  It would be a nice bonus if the game was out of reach late, so Eddie can rest his starters.  Let's hope that is the case.