Maine (2-11) At Rutgers (6-5)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Tip-off: Saturday, December 29th at 3:00 p.m. ET
Stream: BTN Plus ($) - Ralph Bednarczyk & Dom Savino
Radio: Rutgers IMG Sports Network - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 90 Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #114; Maine #335
(Rutgers has moved back 6 spot since the OT win over Columbia)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 69 Maine 50; Rutgers has an 95% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Rutgers -21
Series History: Rutgers leads 3-0 with the last meeting coming on December 15, 2005, a 91-56 victory for the Scarlet Knights.
Game 11 recap & four thoughts
Head coach Richard Barron is in his first season in charge of the Maine men’s team after previously leading the women’s program the past six seasons. Before that Barron led the Princeton women’s team from 2001-2007 where he went 0-3 against C. Vivian Stringer and Rutgers. The Black Bears are off to a 2-11 start this season and are 1-3 in overtime games this season. That OT victory came in double overtime against Fordham, who beat Rutgers the following game.
The Black Bears are led by a pair of juniors, Isaiah White and Andrew Fleming. The 6’6” White averages 15.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 steals. The 6’7” Fleming is their most well-rounded player, posting 13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 block and 0.9 steals per game. Both players can shoot the three, as White unloads more often (28 for 90; 31.1%) but Fleming is the most reliable shooter on the team (11 for 30; 36.7%).
Other key players for Maine include junior guard Sergio El Darwich (9.6 points, 55.4% FG, 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals), 6’8” forward Vilgot Larsson (7.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists), 6’8” forward Vincent Eze (5.3 points, 3.6 rebounds) and 5’10” freshman Terion Moss (5.2 points).
Statistically, Maine is a poor offensive team, ranking 343rd in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom. They have also been one of the worst three-point shooting (27.5%; #332) and free throw shooting (63.4%; 318th). The Black Bears average 15 turnovers per contest and only grab 32 boards per game. Defensively, they are rated just 270th, although they rank in the top 100 in block percentage (86th) and steal % (91st).
Keys To Victory
Attack The Rim
As I mentioned earlier this week, Rutgers has struggled mightily from the three-point line recently, making just 12 of 64 in the past three contests, which is a dreadful 19%. Even against Columbia, they didn’t take make scoring inside the paint enough of a priority. Hopefully after another week of practice, Rutgers comes out on a mission to dominate inside. The menu should include feeding Shaq Carter and Myles Johnson often, giving Shaq Doorson opportunities to own the offensive glass, and the guards looking to penetrate from the perimeter. Eugene Omoruyi and Geo Baker need to lead the way by not forcing shots, sharing the basketball and making it a point to get to the rim as well. Rutgers has the ability to control the game in the halfcourt and it would be a solid step in their progression to see them to do it.
Take Care Of The Basketball
Rutgers needs to minimize turnovers moving forward, as it will really hurt them once Big Ten play resumes in January. They’re averaging 14 giveaways per game and turned it over 19 times against Columbia. Baker and Caleb McConnell need to do a better job of being tighter with their ball handling and as a team they need to make sharper and smarter passes. Maine has the potential to cause turnovers, so Rutgers needs to make protecting the basketball in this game a priority as well.
Maine is not a good offensive team at all and Rutgers needs to come out on a mission to make every possession a dogfight. They need to limit open lanes to the rim and eliminate any open looks from the perimeter. I think this team plays better offensively when they are on top of their game defensively, so hopefully the intensity and focus shows up early in this afternoon affair. Rutgers has held several opponents under 40 points during the Pikiell era and they could do it again in this matchup as well.
This game is one Rutgers should dominate from start to finish. Seeing them do that would help send them into the new year with a little positive momentum before resuming Big Ten play on January 5th against Maryland. Rutgers has gotten into a bad habit of playing to their competition, allowing inferior teams like Fordham and Columbia to hang around far too long, losing to one and barely surviving in overtime against the other. Dominating the boards and playing suffocating defense is the key, even if they don’t have their best shooting day. Seeing players like Issa Thiam and Peter Kiss assert themselves offensively would be encouraging as well. Hopefully, Rutgers comes out with energy and purpose, putting the issue no longer in doubt as early as halftime. Getting the freshman some big minutes in this game would be beneficial for their and the team’s development as well.