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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Game #11 Preview vs. Columbia

How to stream, listen, stats, keys to victory & coach Pikiell’s thoughts on the team

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Columbia (3-7) At Rutgers (5-5)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: The RAC in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tip-off: Saturday, December 22nd at 1:00 p.m. ET

TV: None

Stream: BTN Plus ($) - Ralph Bednarczyk & Danny Breslauer

Radio: Rutgers IMG Sports Network - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 384 - Chris Carlin & Joe Boylan

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #108; Columbia #237

(Rutgers has moved back 1 spot since the loss to Seton Hall)

KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 75 Columbia 63; Rutgers has an 87% chance to win.

Vegas Line: Rutgers -12

Series History: Columbia leads 25-23 all-time, but Rutgers has gone 15-2 against the Lions since 1970, including winning the last eight meetings. The teams last met in 2002 with Rutgers winning 60-38.

Game 10 recap & four thoughts

About Columbia

Head coach Jim Engles formerly made NJIT competitive and is in his third season at Columbia. The Lions also lost to Fordham (70-69) and their best win is against Iona (KenPom #218). They last played on December 12th, a nine point road loss to Boston College.

Columbia is averaging 16.5 made three-point shots per game, which is the 16th most in Division I, making 37.9% of its attempts. Italian guard Gabe Stefanini is making 54.3% of his shots behind the arc (25 of 46), which is the fourth best in Division I. He is second on the team in scoring with 14.9 points and adds 3.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.7 steals per contest. 5’11” junior guard Mike Smith leads the Lions with 15.8 points and 5.0 assists per game, but hasn’t played the previous two contests and is out for the season with an injury. The backcourt heavy visitors also have Quinton Adlesh, the only other player scoring in double figures, who averages 11.9 points and is shooting 42.5% from three-point range (31 of 73). Wing Jake Killingsworth (7.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists) is the other top shooter from behind the arc, as he is making 45.0% from three (18 of 40).

The Lions are led in the frontcourt by 6’10” Patrick Tape (8.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 63.3 FG%) and 6’7” Randy Brumant (7.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.0 block, 55.4 FG%).

Columbia ranks 10th in Division I in assists with 18.7 per game and 20th in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.51. They have an effective field goal percentage rate of 53.8% which is 88th in Division I, as well as 102nd in defensive steal percentage with a rate of 9.8%.

Steve Pikiell Pregame Thoughts

On the current state of the team:

“We’re looking for more consistency. We’re getting better every day. Guys are getting better and learning more on what to do and how to battle through obstacles. We’ve shown signs of being really good and we’ll continue to evolve.”

Improvements needed on offense:

“Less three’s, more inside, more post-ups, more free-throw attempts. I think our numbers are decent in some areas. Again, we’ve played a really good schedule, too. Our numbers are up a little bit against better competition.”

“Sometimes my rotations are dictated by foul trouble, sometimes they’re dictated by plays I want to run and those kinds of things, so I’m hoping as our guys get more and more comfortable, and how teams guard us, we’ll get better. We’ve shown signs of being good. We need to share the game more, we’re better passers than we’ve shown. We’ve shown impatience, which isn’t a great thing, but it’s a trait of young guys.”

Struggles from the free throw line:

“I feel like in the last few games we’ve gotten better. I will tell you this, we need to get to the line more. That’s been a consistent, that we haven’t gotten to the line enough. That’s another area that we’ve struggled in the last three weeks. In the games that we’ve lost we’ve been almost double on points from the foul line. A, we take too many three’s but B, we gotta get to the line so we can get some of our better free-throw shooters more attempts. We’re in these close games, and that’s part of why we’re not finishing them, too, because the free-throw percentage isn’t helping us.’’

Keys To Victory

Attack The Rim

Pikiell made a point during Thursday’s conference call to say that Rutgers needs to take less three-point attempts and get inside more so moving forward. Rutgers will have an edge in size and athleticism versus Columbia, so it’s a good opponent to revamp their attack against. This team needs more offensive production from the frontcourt, so look for players like Myles Johnson and Shaq Carter to get more looks in this game. Ron Harper Jr. has struggled badly from the perimeter this season, but has been much more effective near the rim. He and fellow freshman Montez Mathis could really excel in this matchup as well. Making free throws and getting to the line more often will be another point of emphasis that Pikiell mentioned above.

Share The Basketball

The Rutgers offense has been at its best this season when multiple players are scoring and the basketball is being passed around multiple times per possession. Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi have been very good this season, but they at times carry too much of the burden and force shots. Getting others involved and having 4-5 players score in double digits will make Rutgers a much more unpredictable and harder team to defend. This mindset needs to restart Saturday against Columbia.

Defend The Three

As mentioned above, Columbia can make three’s at a high rate and those shots are a big factor in lesser teams pulling upsets in college basketball. Rutgers cannot afford to allow open looks from behind the arc in this game and they need to contest everything. If Columbia makes a few from deep early on, they’ll gain confidence and Rutgers could find themselves in a battle all afternoon, something they absolutely want to avoid coming in with a four game losing streak. Boxing out the shooters and preventing long rebounds is key as well, as the Scarlet Knights want to limit the Lions to one shot per possession as much as possible.

Play 40 Minutes

This game is a challenge in the sense that the fall semester just ended and holiday break has begun with Christmas just three days away. The students have left campus and the crowd for this game won’t be anything like recent one’s have been. Rutgers needs to start the game with urgency and purpose, looking to get out in front and stay there the entire game. The leadership of Baker, Omoruyi and Shaq Doorson will be key. It’s also a test to see if the maturity of a young team has taken a step forward in seizing the moment against a lesser opponent. Rutgers has had a lot of practice time this month and Pikiell spoke about how much film they’ve watched, as well as discussed the team’s approach and strategy on the court. This game will show how much progress has been made to a degree. With Big Ten play resuming in just two weeks, this team needs to grow up quickly.