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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Game #10 Preview vs. Seton Hall

Includes how to watch, stream, coach Pikiell’s thoughts, stats, and keys to victory

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers (5-4) At Seton Hall (6-3)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey (SOLD OUT)

Tip-off: Saturday, December 15th at 2:00 p.m. ET

TV: FS1 - Brian Custer & Steve Lavin

Stream: FOX Sports Go

Radio: Rutgers IMG Sports Network - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #107; Seton Hall #57

(Rutgers has moved back 8 spots since the loss to Fordham)

KenPom Prediction: Seton Hall 71 Rutgers 64; Rutgers has an 26% chance to win.

Vegas Line: Seton Hall -6

Series History: Seton Hall leads the all-time series 39-30, but Rutgers won last season, as well as three of the past five played at the Rock (Prudential Center). This annual meeting was dubbed the Garden State Hardwood Classic after Rutgers left the Big East, with Seton Hall leading 3-1.

Game 9 recap & four thoughts

Notes: Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs hired both head coaches in this game, as he served as interim AD at Seton Hall previously and tabbed Kevin Willard for the job. He hired Steve Pikiell at Rutgers just a few months after becoming AD on the banks in late 2015. Seton Hall’s Michael Nzei and Rutgers’ Mamadou Doucoure played high school basketball together at Our New Savior American in Long Island.

About Seton Hall

Head coach Kevin Willard is in his ninth season and has taken the Pirates to the NCAA Tournament the previous three years. They enter Saturday’s game coming off its biggest win of the season against then #9 Kentucky last weekend at Madison Square Garden. They also beat Miami, like Rutgers, but on a neutral court the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Their losses were to Nebraska by 23 points on the road, as well as to St. Louis by 2 points and Louisville by 5 points at home.

Seton Hall is led by junior guard Myles Powell, who is averaging 23.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 steals. He is an excellent shooter and is making 38.% from three-point range (30 of 79) and 83.6% from the free throw line (51 of 61). The only other player scoring in double digits is senior forward Michael Nzei, who is averaging 10.6 points per game on 72.7% shooting from the field, as well as 5.0 rebounds.

The Pirates run an eight man rotation and those players include Sacred Heart transfer guard Quincy McKnight (9.4 points, 2.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals), sophomore wing Myles Cale (8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds), 6’10” big man Sandro Mamukelashvili (8.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocks), Syracuse transfer forward Taurean Thompson (6.6 points, 2.5 rebounds), freshman guard Anthony Nelson (2.9 points, 2.2 assists), and freshman wing Jared Rhoden (2.4 points, 2.3 rebounds).

The Hall are not a strong three-point shooting team, making just 31.6% as a team, but are solid from two-point range (52.3%) and the charity stripe (69.6%). They rarely turn the ball over, entering this game with the 3rd best steal rate offensively in Division I and 22nd best turnover rate, both per KenPom. They have top 70 adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings and have scored over 80 points in five of nine games this season.

Keys To Victory

Win The Rebounding Battle

Seton Hall averages just 33 rebounds per contest and is only 279th in Division I for offensive rebounding rate. They are better on the defensive glass, as they own the 75th best rate for opponents offensive rebounding percentage. Still, Rutgers enter this game the better rebounding team, averaging 40 boards per contest, having the 48th best offensive rebounding rate, while opponents offensive rebounding percentage is 158th rated this season. Rutgers needs bring an attitude on the glass in this game in order to win it. They need to capitalize on second chance scoring chances off of offensive rebounding and limit Seton Hall from taking multiple shots per possession. Rutgers got outworked in the paint and on the glass in the second half against Fordham. They need to regroup and assert their toughness against the Hall and it starts with rebounding.

Frustrate Myles Powell

Powell, who currently leads the Big East in scoring, will be the best player to walk on the floor in this game. Whether he plays like it will be largely determined with how well Rutgers can defend him. Seton Hall’s play is very much dictated by Powell and is highlighted by his three-point shooting. In the Hall’s six wins this season, Powell made 25 of 51 attempts from behind the arc for 49%. In the three losses, he made just 5 of 28 from deep for 18%. Rutgers needs to contest every shot he takes and Powell is attempting almost 9 shots from three-point range per game. I expect Issa Thiam and Montez Mathis to split the assignment on Powell, but Steve Pikiell also mentioned having “tricks up our sleeve” in his pregame presser on Thursday. Whether Rutgers actually implements something different to defend him or its simply gamesmanship to make Seton Hall ponder the thought, containing Powell, who went off for 25 points after halftime in the upset win of Kentucky last Saturday, is an absolute must if they want to win this game.

Mathis & Harper Jr. Need To Be The X-Factor

Speaking of Mathis and fellow freshman Ron Harper Jr., both have showed signs recently that they are developing through the first part of the season. In seeing Mathis at the first practice of the season, it’s obvious he has improved significantly on the defensive end with how he has been playing of late. In addition, after making just 7 of his first 16 free throw attempts to start the season, he has now made 9 of 12 in the past three games. Harper Jr. went through a four game stretch of scoring just 13 points total, but has scored 15 in his last two games, including 10 in the loss to Fordham. Rutgers can’t just rely on Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi in the scoring column and the more Mathis and Harper Jr. can assert themselves on the offensive end, the better this team will be. They are also both are getting better at the little things and need to show their growth in this game for Rutgers to have a chance at the upset.

Second Half Start

Rutgers has played poorly out of halftime in most games this season and that weakness was exploited in the loss to Fordham. It’s partly a sign of an inexperienced team and they need more urgency both in closing out the first half well and opening the second half strong. Those two parts of the game can make all the difference and in this rivalry game Rutgers cannot afford to allow any extended runs by Seton Hall. While Rutgers was able to come from behind by 13 points overall and 9 points in the last six minutes of last year’s meeting, I don’t think that’s something they could replicate in this game. They need to stay close throughout and how they come out of the locker room after halftime could determine the outcome. Baker and Omoruyi obviously have to play well for Rutgers to win, but they need to also make sure they don’t force things too much during this period of the game and work to get others involved.

Defend For 40 minutes

Speaking to the point of not allowing any big runs, Rutgers has to play its best defensive game to win on Saturday. Seton Hall is a good offensive team, but they can be frustrated and force bad shots. Rutgers needs to make them work for every basket, contest everything and limit penetration resulting in close looks near the rim. Make Seton Hall work in the halfcourt on offense and force them to slow it down. The more this game is a grind it out, physical battle, the better it is for Rutgers. Case in point was the win over Miami and first halves against Michigan State and Wisconsin, all instances that Rutgers played excellent defense.

One More Thing

The records and recent performances mean nothing coming into this game. This matchup has been a classic battle for over two decades and I think this game will be another great chapter added to the rivalry. Seton Hall deserves to be favored, has the higher upside and has the advantage of playing at home. However, Rutgers seems to play best when they are the underdog and you know Pikiell has been in their ears all week about getting this game after last week’s disappointing performance against Fordham. Enjoy this game and if it goes down to the final minute once again, consider yourself warned.

Addition OTB pregame coverage:

Podcast preview with Dave White

Staff round table on Best & Worst Rivalry Memories

Rivalry Thriving Once Again

Steve Pikiell Pregame Presser