How To Watch
When & Where: Saturday at noon at the RAC
Radio: Rutgers IMG Radio Network WOR (710 AM) & WCTC (1450 AM); WRSU (88.7 FM)
This is the third annual Garden State Hardwood Classic, established after Rutgers left the Big East. It is great these two in-state rivals continue to battle every season on the court, although just once doesn't seem like enough. This game could also be called the Patrick Hobbs Classic, as Rutgers new athletic director was the dean of the Seton Hall Law school for many years.
About Seton Hall
The Pirates are 5-2 with key wins over Georgia and Ole Miss. They have lost to Long Beach State and George Washington. Seton Hall is a young team, starting four sophomores and one freshman. Guards Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington lead the scoring attack, averaging over 30 points a game combined. Another guard, UMass senior transfer Derrick Gordon, averages 9 points a game off the bench. Their frontcourt is led by sophomores Desi Rodriguez (13 pts, 5 reb) and Angel Delgado (7pts, 9 reb). Starting forward Ish Santiago (6pts, 8 reb) dislocated his shoulder Wednesday against GW and is not expected to play. Seton Hall likes to push the ball up the court and will pressure the guards on defense. Like Rutgers, the Pirates have struggled from the free throw line and three-point arc this season. They average just 63% from the line and 31% from long range.
Four Keys to the Game
Only 9 Scholarship Players Available
Earlier this week, Eddie Jordan declared Deshawn Freeman out for two weeks with a sore knee. That is a big blow for Rutgers, as Freeman is shooting 54% from the field and averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds per game. This leaves Eddie with just three frontcourt players in Greg Lewis, Ibrahima Diallo, and D.J. Foreman. A big development from Monday's loss to Wake Forest was the solid play of senior Omari Grier and freshman Jonathan Laurent. It was the best game of the season for both players and they will need to continue to play at the level today for Rutgers to have a chance. The bigs must stay out of foul trouble as well today.
Seniors Must Lead
In addition to Grier, Monday was also the best game of the season from Lewis. He played a season high 30 minutes and contributed 11 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. Grier also scored a season high of 8 points on 4-5 shooting. Both players demonstrated poise and passion on the court, something Rutgers has desperately needed from their seniors but rarely have gotten this season. On flip side, Bishop Daniels played his worst game of the season, scoring just 2 points on 1-5 shooting and committed 4 turnovers. Rutgers must get strong games from all three seniors today in this rivalry game.
18 of the last 21 times Rutgers and Seton Hall have played, the game has been decided by 6 points or less or in overtime. That is a sign of a great rivalry. A major reason Rutgers lost to St. John's by 2 points and Wake Forest by 1 point was their lack of execution from the free throw line. They shot just 5-14 against the Johnnies and 11-18 against Wake, so frustrating but also a sign of a young team. Seton Hall is also struggling from the line, shooting just 63% for the season, below Rutgers 65%. Whichever team shoots better from the charity stripe today could determine the victor.
Which Team Wants It More
Rivalry games come down to which team wants it more, and today is no exception. Both teams are missing a key big man and are coming off close losses to good teams. With conference play less than a month out, both teams need as many non-conference wins as possible. Seton Hall has won the last two seasons and Rutgers needs to play with urgency today. Traditionally, this rivalry has been decided at times by an unlikely hero. I think Laurent is finally healthy and starting to show signs he is ready to break out. With Freeman out, Foreman will play the 4 exclusively, leaving the wing spot open for Laurent. I think he and Corey Sanders will bring a lot of energy and determination into today's game. Let's hope it leads Rutgers to an all important victory.