How To Watch
Tip-off at Midnight EST, 9pm PST
Radio: Rutgers IMG Radio Network WOR (710 AM) & WCTC (1450 AM); WRSU (88.7 FM)
Rutgers will play it's third game in five days, taking on the Creighton Blue Jays for the first time ever. This game is a part of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Clemson and UMass play in the opening game. The championship and consolation games are Wednesday night.
They come into this game at 2-1, having defeated Texas Southern and the University of Texas - San Antonio by 48 points combined. Their loss came at the hands of Indiana, falling 86-65 last Thursday. Creighton has four players averaging 11 points a game or more, led by junior guard Isaiah Zierden with 14.3 points a game. Creighton is shooting 28-81 from three-point range, averaging 35%. This is a veteran team, as seven of the top nine players in minutes played this season are juniors and seniors.
Five Keys to the Game
Ability to slow down Creighton
As mentioned, Creighton is not shy from long range, averaging 27 attempts through three games this season. With four different players averaging 4 attempts or more a game, Rutgers will need to account for multiple shooters on the wings. Rutgers has to do a better job of boxing out in the paint, limiting offensive rebounds. They did not do a good job of this against Central Arkansas and if it continues tonight, Creighton will make them pay. The Blue Jays can score in bunches and Rutgers must limit their opportunities. Expect to see a good amount of 2-3 zone from Rutgers along with the fullcourt press mixed in at times. For Rutgers to win tonight, they will need their best defensive effort of the season.
Creighton plays at a fast pace and Rutgers cannot get caught up in it and play out of control. They need to stay focused and run the offense, working to get good looks at the basket. Corey Sanders is the key and needs to take control of the offense. This team also needs to be able to absorb runs by Creighton and not get rattled. They haven't faced such an explosive offense to date, and I worry how the team will respond if Creighton gets hot from deep early. Rutgers will need scoring balance to keep up with Creighton, regardless of how well they play on defense. Four to five players will need to be in double figures for Rutgers to win. That will not happen unless they play smart and unselfish on offense.
Hustle & Heart
Eddie Jordan was very critical of the team following their heartbreaking loss to St. John's. He said Rutgers was "out-hearted" by St. John's. While the offense suffered a major breakdown and was a major reason they lost, Eddie was trying to make a point. This team is getting out-hustled at times, as seen Saturday against Central Arkansas. For Rutgers to compete against better competition, like tonight, they will need to win the battle for loose balls and out work their opponent. While this team is still learning how to play together, they can't be overly cautious or hesitant when on the court. They need to give maximum effort for 40 minutes and do all the little things necessary to win the game.
Rutgers took a step forward on Saturday at the free throw line, making 24-34 attempts for 71%. Corey Sanders was especially clutch, hitting all four free throw attempts in the final 19 seconds of the game, clinching the win. Rutgers must convert at a high percentage from the line tonight, as they will need every point they can get to keep up with the high scoring Blue Jays.
After playing two games in three days, Rutgers got on a plane yesterday and flew to Vegas. This will be their third game in five days, which could make for tired legs tonight. Corey Sanders has averaged over 33 minutes a game, which is 5 minutes more a game than Mike Williams, who is second on the team in minutes played. Rutgers is not the same team without Sanders on the floor. Despite logging so many minutes, it is imperative that Sanders is still playing with high energy on the court. The team feeds off of him and they cannot afford to come out flat and fall behind early. Rutgers needs Bishop Daniels to step up in similar fashion to his performance against St. John's. He carried them at times last Thursday and the senior will need to make sure they get off to a good start tonight. While Daniels can't be expected to post career highs in several categories like he did in that game, Rutgers will need his confidence and energy to feed off of tonight!