How To Watch & Listen
Stony Brook (4-8) At Rutgers (10-3)
Where: The RAC (capacity 8,000)
Tip-off: Friday, December 22nd at 7:00 p.m. ET
Stream: BTN Plus (subscription only) - Lou Brogno & Dom Savino
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM & WOR 710 AM, Sirius 135, XM 195 - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #91; Stony Brook #181
(Note: Rutgers rose 11 spots since the 6 point win over Seton Hall)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 73 Stony Brook 64; Rutgers has an 81% chance to win
Series History: Rutgers leads 4-0 all-time, including last season's 71-66 win on the road.
About Stony Brook
Second year head coach Jeff Boals brings the Seawolves to the RAC with a 4-8 record. However, they have played a very challenging non-conference schedule, which is ranked 68th per KenPom. They've lost to Michigan State by 22 points, Maryland by 15 points, UConn by 8 points, and in its last game, they suffered a 2 point loss to Providence on the road. This team should not be underestimated, as they have hung relatively well against the opponents mentioned above and will have plenty of confidence entering tonight's contest.
Stony Brook forces a lot of turnovers and has five players averaging at least one steal per contest. They look to score in transition and are a dangerous team from behind the arc. The Seawolves average 9 made three-pointers per game and are shooting 38% as a team from long range. These two strengths make them a very tough out and one that is built to upset a high major team like Rutgers. However, they are not a strong rebounding team, they average 15 turnovers on their own, and they are only shooting 65.4% from the free throw line. They play mostly man to man and are an average defensive team overall.
Here are stats for key players on Stony Brook:
6’6’” sophomore guard Akwasi Yeboah - 13.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steal
5’11” junior guard Jaron Cornish - 11.1 points, 3.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals
6’7” senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant - 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals
6’5” freshman forward Elijah Olaniyi - 9.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 steal
6’6” senior guard Bryan Sekunda - 8.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists
6’0” senior guard UC Iroegbu - 7.7. points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals
6’7” senior guard Junior Saintel - 6.8 points, 4.3 rebounds
Know Your Three-Point Shooters:
Bryan Sekunda - 28 of 56 for 50%
Akwasi Yeboah - 19 of 44 for 43.2%
UC Iroegbu - 15 of 40 for 37.5%
Elijah Olaniyi - 10 of 28 for 35.7%
Jaron Cornish - 6 of 18 for 33%
Tyrell Sturdivant - 17 of 53 for 32.1%
The Scarlet Knights lead all 351 Division I teams in rebounds per game (45.7), are second in offensive boards per contest (16.2), third in scoring defense (58.3%) and fourth in field goal percentage defense (36.3%). Mike Williams is six points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career, which we spoke to him about here.
Notable Pregame Quotes From Rutgers
Steve Pikiell on the differences in Stony Brook now versus when he was coach:
"They run a lot of different sets. They’re a very much improved program. They play an unbelievable schedule. If you watch the games that they’ve played — Michigan State, they’re in that game. Maryland, they’re in that. UConn game, they’re up big at the end of the game and obviously they just lost a two-point game with just six seconds to Providence. The players that he’s recruited are very athletic and talented and the guys there were there when I was there have improved in a lot of ways. So he’s done a really good job. They’re very good and they’re a program that’s used to winning. They have that winning culture, that winning DNA and that University is on the rise."
On keeping turnovers low against Stony Brook:
"We’ve improved a lot in that area. Last year, if you remember, at this time, we were answering questions about being one of the worst turnover teams in the country so we’ve really done a good job of flipping that and I think that’s helped a tremendous amount. I think Geo (Baker) and Corey (Sanders) and the addition of other guys taking care of the ball really helped us. It’s a huge thing every game and with Stony Brook really good with shooting the ball, you don’t want to give them extra opportunities. They’re a good scoring program and we have to do a good job getting our kind of shots and making sure we’re not turning the ball over with pick sixes. We got to avoid those."
On Stony Brook in general:
"I think in the last seven years, they’ve won 90 percent of their home games, so I didn’t want to take that trip last year, wouldn’t want to take it this year. Real tough place to play. They’re well coached, they got good players. We’re two years into our build here. I feel a little bit better. Our veterans have been around, they also know how good they were last year, it was a one-possession game. I think our guys have tremendous respect. I know as a staff, we have tremendous respect for their program and the coaching staff and the players they have. We recruited them so I think that’s very important. But we try to approach every game the same. We have to play Rutgers basketball. We’ve got to do an awesome job, we’ve got to be well prepared. Our guys have to be ready with the game plan, which is always changing and this is another we’ll have a different game plan for. We’ve built good home-court advantage here and hopefully we’ll continue."
Corey Sanders on playing Stony Brook:
"It’s going to be a big game. We’re going to go out there and fight our hearts out for coach. That was the school he was at prior to coming here so there’s going to be a lot of emotions and they’re going to come in trying to give it their all and they’re a good team too. We’ve been watching some film on them, they’re a good team so we’re just going to have to come out and give it our all and get a win for coach."
Keys To Victory
Rutgers can dominate this game if Corey Sanders and Geo Baker can pick up where they left off against Seton Hall. The duo need to dictate the action and attack the rim as much as possible. They also need to get the ball in the hands of Deshawn Freeman and Eugene Omoruyi in the paint, who can be effective scorers in this game. Stony Brook plays a lot of guards, but none can match the talent and athleticism of Sanders and Baker. They need to make that clear to prevent Rutgers from having a letdown tonight.
Stick To Basics
Defense and rebounding is the strength and identity of this Rutgers team and they need to continue to focus on these areas when playing a pesky, mid-major opponent like Stony Brook. They should dominate on the boards, as well as take advantage of second chance scoring opportunities. Rutgers should be able to generate plenty of good looks near the rim in this game and it's imperative they finish as many of them as possible to keep the Seawolves at bay. On the defensive end, Rutgers has the opportunity to stifle Stony Brook in the halfcourt, but they must be committed on every possession. That leads me to our next key to victory....
Defend The Perimeter
The great thing about college basketball and the scary thing about tonight’s opponent is that upsets can occur when the underdog gets hot from three-point range. Stony Brook has the ability to do just that, as I mentioned above that they average 38% from behind the arc this season. Defending the three-point line and not losing sight of the multiple shooters that the Seawolves have is hugely important. Focus and effort is needed in order to contest every shot on the perimeter, especially in transition.
As mentioned above, Stony Brook thrives off of forcing turnovers and average 8 steals per game. Rutgers must be smart with the basketball and not allow for easy points in transition off of turnovers. This is an area where Stony Brook can generate open looks from behind the arc, so limiting turnovers and transition defense will be something to watch for in this game.
Don't Get Trapped
I wrote earlier this week that this game will be an emotional test for this team. Coming off of the high of upsetting rival Seton Hall, having taken final exams all week, as well Steve Pikiell's former team coming to the RAC, it’s important this team show character and resolve in this game. Also after playing six games in fourteen days, they haven't played in almost a week, so finding a rhythm tonight is key in playing well. That’s why playing hard and smart on defense, giving effort on the boards, and attacking the rim on offense all comes down to this team’s focus and mindset entering this game. The first ten minutes of action will be key for Rutgers to establish control.
In The Bonus
This is a tough night to pack the RAC, as students will be mostly home for the holidays and there are plenty of parties and family obligations this time of year for the rest of us. Still, if you can make it to this game, please do. This team needs as much fan support tonight as possible against a team looking to spoil the jovial mood that the win over Seton Hall generated. Rutgers needs to take care of business and keep moving forward.