How To Watch & Listen
TV: 7:00 pm on ESPNU
Radio: Rutgers IMG Radio Network WOR (710 AM) & WCTC (1450 AM); WRSU (88.7 FM); Sirius Channel 83; XM Channel 195
Spread: Iowa - 22.5
Deshawn Freeman, Shaq Doorson, and Ibrahima Diallo have all been declared out for the season. There has been no official word on Jonathan Laurent for tonight, but Eddie Jordan was hopeful he would play. If he does, that would put Rutgers at eight active scholarship players.
Sources tell @TargumSports that Jonathan Laurent will return Thursday night for Rutgers vs. No. 9 Iowa. #RHoops up to 8 scholarship players.— Garrett Stepien (@GarrettStepien) January 21, 2016
The Hawkeyes are red hot and are on their longest winning streak in 46 years, winning seven in a row since their one point loss to #19 Iowa State, who just beat #1 Oklahoma on Monday. They enter tonight's game at 5-0 in the conference and 14-3 overall, having swept #11 Michigan State already this season. Oh yes, and they beat #22 Purdue by 7 points, on the road no less. Iowa averages 81 points a game and shoot 46.8% from the field, including 40.5% from three-point range. As a team they almost have a 2 to 1 assist to turnover margin, averaging 18 assists to just 10 turnovers per game. They are a tough team that plays smart, have multiple shooters from long range, and fear no one.
Rutgers has absolutely no one to match up with 6'9" senior forward Jarrod Uthoff, who leads the Big Ten in scoring with 18.6 points per game. On top of averaging 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game (also best in the conference), Uthoff is their best three-point shooter, averaging 44.9% on 78 attempts. In fact, they have five other players who average 38.7% or better from three-point range. Senior point guard Mike Gesell is having a solid season, averaging 9.5 points, 6.9 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 47% from the field. Junior guard Peter Jok will be a handful as well, as the rangy wing is on fire after averaging 19.5 points in his past two games, shooting 14-24 (58.3%) from the field and 7-11 from three-point range (63.6%). Last but not least, Iowa features 7'1" senior center Adam Woodbury, who averages 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.
Keys To The Game
Slow It Down
Rutgers must avoid falling into the trap of rushing shots and getting into an up and down battle with their opponents. They have shown a lack of discipline for large portions of games in spreading the floor, working the shot clock, and creating quality shot opportunities. They did it pretty well in the first half against Ohio State and had great results. But they fell back into taking rushed, ill-advised shots in the second half of that game and promptly fell apart. They ran their offense somewhat effectively against Purdue, but shot terribly. That resulted in Purdue running back the other way at will, with Rutgers failing to get back on defense time and time again. Corey Sanders needs to set the tone, working the ball around the perimeter and slowing down the game, attacking the paint and working to find quality looks at the basket for he and his teammates.
Go Get The Ball
The most painful part of the Purdue game was watching Rutgers defenders stand flat footed as missed shots bounced off the rim and the opponent routinely jumped to the ball for the rebound. I don't care about the height advantage, the effort was dismal and resulted in a -40 rebounding margin. Rutgers gave zero fight or resistance to Purdue and paid dearly for it. They need to make it a focus to go get the ball, all five players on the court rushing towards the glass on missed shots and diving on the floor for loose balls. The only way Rutgers keeps things close is to out hustle Iowa and win the intangibles.
Get Back on Defense
Purdue destroyed Rutgers on transition baskets, constantly taking advantage of a Rutgers missed shot by beating them down the floor for easy points in the paint. Iowa can do the same, and is also a better long range shooting team than Purdue. Rutgers needs to be sprinting back down the court after a missed shot and find the open man in transition. They need to be alert and communicate well to prevent any breakdowns, otherwise this could be worse than Monday night.
End Shooting Woes
In the past three losses to Nebraska, Ohio State and Purdue, Rutgers has shot just 35.5% from the field and only 8-53 from three-point range, a terrible 15.1%. A big reason is shot selection, as they are settling for contested jump shots and are taking them out of the rhythm of the offense. They fall into the pattern of falling behind early, give up on running the offense and force three-pointers in hopes of catching up quickly. It snowballs after a few misses and next thing they know, instead of being down 10 points, they are down by 25. They have to play with more discipline and look to drive to the basket, rather than settling for long jumpers. Because one thing is clear, Rutgers doesn't have skilled enough shooters to play that way.
Listen to D.J. Foreman
After the worst home loss in program history on Monday to Purdue, the sophomore forward said "I guess we just come together and somehow pray." We should all heed his advice, as tonight could top the Purdue loss if Rutgers doesn't play with effort and discipline. The other keys I mentioned are all about effort and discipline, but maybe praying really is the biggest key to tonight after all. I hope the players come out with some fight and spirit tonight, because a dead team walking will lead to a historically bad result, two games in a row!