How To Watch & Listen
Rutgers (11-5; 0-3) At Iowa (9-7; 1-2)
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa - Capacity is 15,400
Tip-off: Sunday, January 8th at 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Jeff Levering and Shon Morris
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM & WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #140; Iowa #79
KenPom Prediction: Iowa 78 Rutgers 70 ; Rutgers is given a 22% chance to win.
Series History: Iowa leads 3-0 all-time, including a 90-76 loss at the RAC last season. Their first ever matchup was in the 1st round of the 1989 NCAA Tournament, with the Hawkeyes winning 87-73.
Head coach Fran McCaffery is in his seventh season at Iowa and is a great example of someone who successfully made the leap from a mid-major school to a high-major team. After leading Siena to the NCAA tournament in three consecutive seasons, McCaffery has now done the same at Iowa. After four seasons in a row with 20 plus wins, they lost many key players from those teams and currently start four freshman around arguably the best scorer in the Big Ten in Peter Jok.
Iowa went 8-5 in non-conference play during a challenging slate that included losses to Seton Hall, Virginia, Memphis, and Notre Dame. While they did beat rival Iowa State, they also fell to Omaha at home in their worst loss of the season. In Big Ten play, they got blown out by Purdue, beat Michigan in overtime at home, and lost to Nebraska on the road Thursday in double overtime.
Jok is the leading scorer in the Big Ten and is averaging 22.9 points and is a terrific shooter. He is averaging 45% from the field, 42% from three-point range, and a deadly 91% from the free throw line. The 6’6” senior wing has elevated his game every year and also averages 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He is the only remaining key player from the past few successful Iowa teams and is the unquestioned leader of this team.
Iowa has gotten very good production out of two freshman forwards in Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsi this season. Cook is averaging 13.2 points and 5.4 rebounds, while shooting 57% from the field. Pemsi is scoring 9.8 points and also averages 5.4 boards per game, while shooting an impressive 66% from the field. Sophomore forward Nicholas Baer is solid off the bench, averaging 7.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per contest.
Their backcourt also features a pair of freshman with point guard Jordan Bohannon and shooting guard Isaiah Moss to complement wing Peter Jok. Bohannon is averaging 8.9 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.5 rebounds, while shooting 37% from three-point range. Moss can shoot from deep as well, averaging 36% from behind the arc and averages 7.6 points per game.
Keys To The Game
Reset Defensive Mentality
After two good efforts on the defensive end to open Big Ten play, the wheels fell off in East Lansing against ultra-talented Michigan State, who lit up the Rutgers defense for a season worst 93 points. The Scarlet Knights hadn’t allowed more than 75 points in a game this season, a dramatic improvement from a year ago. However, Michigan State bludgeoned them on Wednesday and there were far too many defensive breakdowns, both on the perimeter and in the interior. They need to forget about that game and regroup quickly in order to be competitive against a high scoring Iowa team that averages 84 points per game.
Defend The Three
As much as Michigan State likes to shoot from behind the arc, Iowa does so even more, which is a big concern in this game. The Spartans torched Rutgers in shooting 11 of 22 from three-point range, something they did last season as well. Iowa averages 37% from deep as a team and Jok is other worldly, shooting 42% on 125 attempts this season. Iowa averages more than 24 attempts per game, so if Rutgers doesn’t recognize the shooters on the floor and minimize open looks, it will be another long night.
While Rutgers has four players averaging 11 points or better this season in Deshawn Freeman, Mike Williams, Nigel Johnson, and Corey Sanders, in their past four games they’ve had little balance on the offensive end. Not surprisingly, they’ve lost all four games by double digits. Rutgers has only had two players score in double digits in those losses, except for against Michigan State when three players did. That’s simply not enough balance on offense for Rutgers to beat good teams. While Sanders looked great on Wednesday and Johnson bounced back after several poor shooting performances, this team desperately needs more scoring production from captain Deshawn Freeman. He is averaging just 7 points per game in their last four games. While CJ Gettys did score 10 points in the last game, he needs to be more of a consistent presence, as does Candido Sa off the bench.
Offensive Glass & Second Chance Points
Honestly, this is a key every game for Rutgers, as they must capitalize on offensive rebounds and finishing in the paint. We all know shooting is a big weakness for this team, but they must improve scoring in the paint and take advantage of second chance opportunities. The frontcourt needs to give the backcourt a lift with scoring or they will never achieve the balance needed to win in the Big Ten.
Make Free Throws
In speaking of their scoring troubles, Rutgers is making it harder on themselves by shooting poorly from the free throw line. After bottoming out in an awful 12 of 27 (44%) performance against Michigan State, they are shooting just 65% from the charity stripe on the season. They cannot afford to miss opportunities from the line, especially on the road against a high scoring team like Iowa. They’ve proven they can execute when locked in like they were against Seton Hall when they went 22 of 28 (79%) from the line. They need to knock them down against the Hawkeyes to have any chance of winning the game.
In The Bonus
This is a big test for Rutgers in their second road game of the week and fifth out of six away from the RAC. Iowa is a tough place to play and it will likely be a sellout of over 15,000 fans. It will be very interesting to see how they respond and if they are able to bounce back and give a strong defensive effort against the high powered Hawkeyes. However, Iowa is a young team and if Rutgers can frustrate them, making every basket they score a battle, they can certainly hang around in this game. If they can play hard and smart in this contest, I really do think they have a chance, especially if Iowa has an off shooting night. They just lost in double overtime on the road on Thursday, so their mindset entering this game will be interesting to watch as well.