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Rutgers Basketball Game 8 Preview: Morgan State

The Scarlet Knights look to bounce back after their first loss of the season to Miami.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch, Stream & Listen

Morgan State (2-5) At Rutgers (6-1)

Tip-off: Saturday at 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: None

Stream: BTN Plus - Dom Savino and Dick Lloyd

Radio: WCTC 1450 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Gabe Sustick and Jon Spilletti

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #154; Morgan State #334

KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 77 Morgan State 61; Rutgers has 92% chance of winning

Series History: 1st Meeting ever

About Morgan State

The Bears have been coached by Todd Bozeman since 2006 and he took the school to the NCAA Tournament twice in his first four seasons. However, they’ve failed to reach the postseason since 2010 and have gone 16-46 the past two seasons. Morgan State is off to a 2-5 start this year, with their best win coming over Campbell from the Big South (3-3). Bozeman has a checkered past, including being the first coach in NCAA history to get another head coaching job after receiving a show-cause penalty from his tenure at Cal-Berkeley. You can read more about his college coaching career here.

On the court, the Bears are led by 6’5” junior guard Tiwisn Kendley and 6’8” forward Phillip Carr, both of whom are from New York City. Kendley is shooting just 35% from the field and 21% from three-point range, but leads Morgan State with 19.7 points per game and takes almost 17 shots a contest. Carr will need to be dealt with in the paint, as he is shooting 58% from the field, while averaging 17.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. He is a good defender near the rim and will be a good test for the Rutgers frontcourt. The only other players scoring in double figures for the Bears is 6’7” senior forward Kyle Thomas, who averages 11.3 points and 4.9 rebounds.

As a team, Morgan State is allowing opponents to score an average of 78 points per contest and has allowed 80 or more points five times in just seven games. They average 16 turnovers a game and are shooting just 28.2% from three-point range.

In terms of connections to Rutgers, Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press pointed out that Morgan State assistant coach Brian Ellerbe was the point guard on the last Scarlet Knights team to win a NCAA tournament game. Ellerbe is also second all-time in program history with assists.

Keys To The Game

Avoid Miami Hangover

This team is still learning and it will be interesting to see how they play after suffering their first loss of the season on Wednesday to Miami. A victory tonight would equal their win total from all of last season and would help to reestablish confidence in this young team. Rutgers has the potential to win the next five games on their schedule, but they could easily stumble as well. Tonight they need to make a statement that they’ve moved on from Miami and are ready to attack the rest of the their non-conference opponents on the schedule, starting tonight against Morgan State. That leads me to my next key to the game.

Dominate From The Start

As exciting and dramatic of a win it was against Hartford 8 days ago, barely beating the #330th ranked team in KenPom didn’t change any outsiders opinion’s of Rutgers basketball. Morgan State is ranked #334th, so it would be great to see Rutgers start this game focused after the loss to Miami and get out to a big lead. Rutgers needs to reestablish their early season strong play in the paint against lesser competition and get Deshawn Freeman and CJ Gettys going from the opening tip. Dominate the glass and don’t let Morgan State breath when they have the ball and play suffocating defense throughout. If Rutgers can play that way close to a full 40 minutes tonight, it will be an encouraging sign this team has moved on from their first loss of the season.

Get Issa Thiam & Jonathan Laurent Involved

Although both players have started every game this season, they are currently sixth and seventh in minutes played and in scoring. Against Miami, Laurent had just 4 points and 4 rebounds with zero field goals, while Issa didn’t score in the game. Rutgers has gotten great production off the bench this season, but they need these two starters to contribute against better competition to have a chance to win those games. Issa is especially important, as he, along with Mike Williams, are key in establishing a threat behind the three-point line. Laurent has a ton of athleticism, but hasn’t really gotten going in any game this season. It would be nice to see both players more involved in tonight’s action.

Turnovers

Rutgers did a good job for the most part in taking care of the basketball against Miami, committing just 11 turnovers in the game. They also forced Miami into 19 turnovers, including 12 steals on defense. It would be nice to see that trend continue, as Rutgers needs to limit turnovers moving forward, after committing 15 or more in three of the first six games this season.

In The Bonus

The last home game against Hartford awakened the RAC in a way that hadn’t been experienced in a couple of seasons, dating back to the upset of Wisconsin in January 2015. It’s important for Rutgers to continue to reestablish the RAC as a difficult place to play for opponents, especially once Big Ten play begins. With this game being played on a Saturday night and the Rutgers football season over, let’s hope for the largest turnout of the home slate so far in the Steve Pikiell era. The program will also be giving out free season posters and are holding an autograph session with players after the game. This team deserves fan and student support, so show up for tonight’s game, as the RAC can make a big difference this season.