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Rutgers Basketball Game 23 Preview: Iowa

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Can the Scarlet Knights win the rematch at home?

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch & Listen

Iowa (12-10; 4-5) At Rutgers (12-10; 1-8)

Where: The RAC

Tip-off: Tuesday, January 31st at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Cory Provus and Dan Bonner

Radio: WCTC 1450 AM & WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #129; Iowa #91

KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 72 Iowa 71; Rutgers is given a 52% chance of winning

Series History: Iowa leads the all-time series 4-0.

1st Meeting Game Recap: Iowa 68 Rutgers 62

About Iowa

Iowa comes into this game after beating Ohio State this past weekend without Big Ten leading scorer Peter Jok, who is nursing a back injury. Head coach Fran McCaffrey said yesterday he wasn’t sure if he will play tonight. Even if Jok does play tonight, it’s likely he will be at less than 100%. Back spasms are tricky, so this very well could be a game time decision.

Update:

The Hawkeyes come to the RAC with an 0-4 on the road in Big Ten play. Four Freshman start around Jok and have yet to find a win away from so far, losing by an average of 18 points in those four contests.

This is a great article from our friends at Black Heart Gold Pants, which details their personnel and various lineup combinations in depth. One could argue Iowa is actually a more balanced team without Jok, as four Hawkeyes scored in double figures in their win against Ohio State. Sophomore guard Brady Ellingson led the way with 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field, including 5 of 7 from three-point range. Freshman guard Jordan Bohannon is also a key shooter to watch for, as he made 4 of 10 shots from three-point range.

Keys To The Game

Turning The Page

Rutgers cannot afford any hangover from Saturday’s emotional loss to Wisconsin. They need to come out ready to rock from the opening tip tonight to avoid any letdown. Iowa is young and is less comfortable on the road. Rutgers needs to play with energy and be physical in the paint from the start to set the right tone in this game. If they come out flat and allow Iowa open looks from the perimeter, it could be a recipe for disaster in a game they can absolutely win.

I asked Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell after the Wisconsin game on his approach to getting the team ready for Iowa:

“These guys have been great, they’ve been resilient. We will be well prepared again, like we were today (against Wisconsin). I thought our gameplan was right where it needed to be. We will continue to work on our weaknesses. Turnovers and free throws were an achilles heel for us again. We have to do a better job in those two areas and continue to work on those. Nothing gets easier in this conference, that’s for sure.”

Relentless Pressure On Defense

In two of the past three games, Rutgers has held Nebraska and Wisconsin without a field goal in the final ten plus minutes of the first half. While expecting that type of performance regularly is unrealistic, Rutgers is capable of playing lockdown defense for extended stretches. Iowa is heavily reliant on shooting the three and Rutgers can’t let them breathe on the perimeter. The Scarlet Knights are holding opponents to 28.5% from behind the arc in league play, which is best in the Big Ten. Iowa is actually just 13th from three in league play, so Rutgers needs to continue that trend to have success in this game. They also have to make them work for every basket and not allow for easy baskets in transition. Although Iowa is more balanced on offense without Jok, potentially not having a veteran go to guy will be more of an issue down the stretch, so halfcourt pressure will be key.

Handle The Press & Zone Of Iowa

In their first meeting, Iowa changed the game by switching to a 2-3 zone and implemented a three-quarter court press. It completely flummoxed Rutgers on offense and they weren’t able to keep their lead late in the second half. They need to move the ball on offense and look to run as often as possible. Iowa will prefer to slow the pace down, so if Rutgers can force long misses from the perimeter and get out in transition, it will prevent the Hawkeyes from clamping things down on them with their halfcourt defense. When they do face the zone, they need to get the ball to Gettys at the top of the key and feed Deshawn Freeman, who was dominate in their first meeting against Iowa, scoring 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the floor.

Dominate The Glass

The big men of Rutgers need to be aggressive in this game and attack the boards, early and often. Freeman had 13 rebounds in the first meeting and Gettys had 7 boards, helping Rutgers to have a +8 rebounding margin in that game. Jok had 11 boards for Iowa, so Rutgers may be able to dominate the glass with him absent. Another factor is they must dominate second chance points by taking advantage of the offensive rebounds they do grab.

Close Down The Stretch

Rutgers held a 9 point lead with just a little more than 3 minutes left against Wisconsin. They went 2 of 6 from the line down the stretch, allowing Wisconsin to force overtime by riding Ethan Happ’s dominance in the paint. Pikiell said after the game a 9 point lead isn’t really that large for Rutgers because of their struggles at the line. No lead is big enough with this team and tonight is an opportunity in front of their fans that would be a great time to start learning how to close out games.

In The Bonus

Rutgers has played 8 of their last 11 games away from home, so playing in front of the RAC faithful should be a much welcomed atmosphere. Hopefully, students and fans continue to show up in strong numbers and bring a raucous environment to this game. Iowa can be rattled with four freshman and not having won on the road in conference play yet. It would be great to see this team embrace the moment and take a step forward with a victory tonight. Corey Sanders was visibly distraught after the Wisconsin loss, but he had enough resolve to make this declaration in the postgame:

“We are going to get back to work and beat Iowa at home on Tuesday”

Rutgers can win this game whether Jok plays or not, so focusing on what they need to do to win is most important. Leaders lead and hopefully, Sanders brings his “A” game and gives the home crowd plenty to cheer about tonight!

For a statistical review on the first half of Big Ten play for Rutgers, click here.