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Rutgers Basketball Game #2 Preview vs. Central Connecticut State

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The Scarlet Knights look to take another step forward

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Ohio State vs Rutgers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch & Listen

CCSU (0-1) At Rutgers (1-0)

Where: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey

Tip-off: Sunday, November 12th at 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: None

Stream: BTN Plus (Subscription required) - Dominick Savino & Marc Peterson

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

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #124, CCSU #340

KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 78 CCSU 59; Rutgers 95% chance to win

Series History: Rutgers leads 2-0, including a 79-37 victory last season

About CCSU

The Blue Devils lost their season opener Friday night in heartbreaking fashion, falling to Hartford 85-84 in OT. The program is already dealing with adversity this season, as head coach Donyell Marshall and assistant Anthony Anderson were both suspended for Friday’s opener, as well as today’s game for a “confidential personal matter”.

6’5” junior guard Tyler Kohl, a previous recruiting target under former Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan, transferred to CCSU after playing two seasons at JUCO power Hutchinson Community College. That is the same school that Rutgers captain Deshawn Freeman played at as well. Kohl had a sparkling debut on Friday night, scoring 21 points, as as grabbing 8 rebounds, dishing 3 assists, and swiping 1 steal. He is a deep threat and went 2 for 6 from behind the arc in the opener.

Other players to know are junior guard Austin Nehls, who scored 18 points on Friday and made 5 of 8 three-point attempts. CCSU actually made 11 of 21 shots behind the arc in their first game and the third deep threat to be aware of is 6’7” forward Joe Hugley, who made 3 of 5 shots from behind the arc.

In the frontcourt, CCSU is led by 6’7” senior Mustafa Jones (12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 steal) and 6’9” Dutchmen Deion Bute (9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks).

What To Watch For

Rotation

Head coach Steve Pikiell gave lots of minutes to his bench in the 94-38 win over CCNY on Friday night. The only two starters to play more than 20 minutes were Geo Baker and Issa Thiam. It was the logical move, as Rutgers is in the middle of a five day stretch that they play three games. It could be another busy day for the reserves, as Rutgers defeated CCSU by 42 last season, its biggest margin of victory last year. This game should serve as an opportunity to improve and be sharper on the court in the second contest of the season. Rutgers needs to reduce turnovers (14 in the opener) and ramp up their intensity level in this game.

Backcourt

Senior captain Mike Williams sat out the season opener for precautionary reasons, which was the smart move. However, it’s likely we will see him on the court in this game. Corey Sanders was able to play more off the ball on Friday night, as freshman Geo Baker did a good job of running the offense the majority of the game. Baker did have 4 assists, but turned it over 5 times, as nerves likely played a factor. Seeing Williams join the pair in the backcourt should be fun to watch in this game.

Shooting

One negative from the rout on Friday night was the poor shooting performance in the game. Rutgers shot just 2 of 17 (12%) from three-point range and only 16 of 32 from the free throw line (50%). Pikiell speculated in the postgame that maybe Rutgers was throw off behind the arc because they were wide open at times. Perhaps, but the bottom line is the team didn’t do anything to alleviate concerns in that area, something that was a major issue last season. As for the charity stripe woes, I’m less concerned as the starting five was a perfect 10 for 10 from the line. I doubt we’ll see another game this season where Shaq Doorson and Souf Mensah combine for 13 free throw attempts (4-13). The issue today is that Rutgers may have tired legs in playing less than 48 hours since the opening game. That’s why this team needs to pound it inside and not get three happy early on like they did against CCNY.

Rebounding

Rutgers held a +40 advantage on the boards against CCNY, but it looked more like an older brother picking on a younger sibling. CCNY only had three players taller than 6’2” and none taller than 6’5”. Today’s game will provide more competition on the boards, but Rutgers should still dominate. This was an area they struggled in against St. John’s in last week’s exhibition victory, so it’s important they come out and pound the glass in this game.

Defense

After holding CCNY to under 40 points in the opener, Rutgers has the opportunity to do it again today. Despite it being against subpar competition, these are the games that the foundation of strong defensive efforts are laid for in future contests this season. They need to play suffocating, relentless defense from the opening tip to break the will of their opponents to have success this season. In order to do it against Big Ten competition, you have to do it against low major teams in non-conference play first. Pikiell wants everything to come from their defense and hopefully we will see that today.