How To Watch, Stream & Listen
Rutgers (8-1) at Stony Brook (3-5)
Where: Island Federal Credit Union Arena in Stony Brook, NY
Tip-off: Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. EST
Stream: ESPN3 - Carl Reuter & Curt Hylton
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Dom Savino & Matt Salvatore
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #135; Stony Brook #232
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 68 Stony Brook 67; Rutgers is given a 55% chance to win
Series History: Rutgers leads 3-0, last winning 67-58 at Madison Square Garden on December 17, 2011, as part of the MSG Holiday Festival.
About Stony Brook
As you probably know, there are storylines galore for tonight’s game, highlighted by Steve Pikiell’s return to the program he built into a perennial power in the America East conference. There are five other staffers for Rutgers that have Stony Brook ties and I featured how valuable the addition of assistant coach Jay Young and strength and conditioning master David Van Dyke have been here.
In terms of Stony Brook, they are 3-5 under first year head coach Jeff Boals, who was a longtime assistant of Thad Matta at Ohio State. They suffered single digit losses to Boston College, Columbia, and Loyola (MD), but are coming off their best win of the season, knocking off Patriot League favorite Lehigh on Tuesday.
6’7” junior forward Tyrell Sturdivant has made a big jump this season and leads the Seawolves in scoring and rebounding with 12.8 points and 7.1 boards per game. The straw that stirs the drink though is 6’3” senior point guard Lucas Woodhouse, who is averaging 12.6 points, 4.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. While he has struggled shooting from the field this season (38% FG; 29% 3 pt), he is a sterling 35-36 from the free throw line for 97%, which is fourth best in the country.
They are complimented by a pair of 6’6” European guards, junior Roland Nyama and freshman Akwasi Yeboah. The two are averaging right at 10 points a game and rebound between 4-5 per contest.
Stony Brook plays a deep rotation, with ten players averaging double figures in minutes played, six of which who played under Pikiell. As a team, they only average 37% shooting from the field and 30% from three-point range. However, they are 14th in the country in turnover % and average just 10 giveaways per game. They also make their free throws, averaging 73% as a unit.
Keys To The Game
Play With Poise
There is no question emotions will be running high on both sidelines tonight. Pikiell is beloved at Stony Brook and there will be a lot of people greeting their old coach in his return. It’s normally a tough road game for any opponent, but there is no doubt the 4,160 fans in attendance tonight will make it even harder. Although Rutgers played at DePaul and at Miami, much large venues, the crowds were not much of a factor. This will truly be the first hostile environment this team plays in and with all the extra connections at play, it will be a very challenging game for Rutgers. They will need to play under control and with purpose. It’s a major test and another step in their development they would like to move past.
Contain Lucas Woodhouse
If there is any current player in tonight’s game on either side that understands how Pikiell thinks, it is Woodhouse. He was the point guard for him the previous three seasons and was a big part of the team’s success. He leads the team in minutes and is the quarterback on the floor. Although he has struggled shooting from the floor this season, he will surely have an extra hop in his step tonight and Rutgers cannot afford for him to get hot from the field.
As I said before, he is one of the best free throw shooters in the country and I’m sure he will attack the rim early and often, in order to get to the line as much as possible. He made 12-12 shots from the line in their win over Lehigh on Tuesday. Corey Sanders will have his hands full, but is also capable of shutting down Woodhouse, who provides him a great test before Big Ten play. I really think Stony Brook’s chances of winning this game fall on how well Woodhouse plays.
Defend The Three
Stony Brook has five players who average at least four attempts from the behind the arc each game. While only one of them is shooting better than 33%, which is JUCO transfer UC Iroegbu at 37%, Rutgers cannot allow open looks from three-point range tonight. It’s something they’ve struggled with at times this season, as Niagara and Hartford combined to shoot 20-42 from three-point range. If Stony Brook makes a few early, it could spell trouble in this game. Defending the perimeter and awareness of where the shooters are on the court will be a major key for Rutgers.
Stick With What Works
Rutgers made a breakthrough Tuesday night against Central Connecticut State, constantly getting into the paint and attacking the rim at will. It led to the program’s best shooting night from the field in 25 seasons, finishing at 65% and highlighted by countless dunks. It won’t be nearly as easy tonight, but Rutgers must continue to attack the rim and take high percentage shots. If the guards fall in love with the three early, it could be a long night. Rutgers can’t afford to take quick shots either, they need to run their offense and make Stony Brook work on defense.
In The Bonus
This game will tell us a lot about our team tonight, for all the reasons I stated above. The mental and emotional aspects of this particular game are unique and will provide a major challenge. Pikiell has preached toughness to this team since he arrived on the banks. They will need it and then some tonight, if they want to leave Long Island the winner. I believe they can definitely do that, but it will require a great team effort to do so. Tuesday’s win could not have come at a better time and Rutgers should enter this game confident. However, I also expect them to be hungry to get their coach a win. Pikiell has downplayed the importance of this game, which should be expected, but we all know how much it will mean for him to win this game. Hopefully, they can get it done and keep their great start going.