Stephen F. Austin (4-0) vs. Rutgers (3-1)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC (8,000) in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Wednesday, November 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Promotion: International Students Day; $15 200-level tickets with ticket stub from football games versus Ohio State
Stream: BTN Plus (Ralph Bednarczyk, play-by-play, Tim Catalfamo, analyst)
Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network (WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/SiriusXM 974; Jerry Recco & Chris Carlin); WRSU 88.7 FM (Justin Sontupe & Corey Jason)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 79th; Stephen F. Austin 266th ; Rutgers moved back 10 spots after the loss to St. Bonaventure.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 101.9 (99th) Defense 92.8 (66th); Stephen F. Austin - 93.3 (281st) Defense 101.3 (233rd)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 80 Stephen F. Austin 64; Rutgers has a 93% chance to win
Vegas Line: Rutgers -14
Series History: First ever meeting between the two programs,
SB Nation Stephen F. Austin site: Mid Major Madness
Stephen F. Austin Scouting Report
Head coach Kyle Keller is in his fourth season since taking over for now Illinois head coach Brad Underwood. SFA was picked to finish fourth out of thirteen teams in the Southland Conference Preseason Poll. Another team from the Southland, Nicholls, took Illinois to overtime and beat Pittsburgh this season already. SFA is two years removed from a 28 win season and NCAA Tournament berth. They had a down season last year, but have started this campaign with a 4-0 record. They’ve beaten like for like opponents of Rutgers in Drexel by 15 and Niagara by 9.
They are led by 6’6” senior guard Kevon Harris, a future pro, who averages 19.8 points and 6.0 rebounds, while shooting 52.1% from the floor and 43.5% from three-point range. He is joined in the backcourt by 6’4” junior Cameron Johnson who averages 13.0 points on 58.3% shooting, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals, as well as 5’11” senior John Comeaux who is averaging 9.8 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.0 steals per game.
In the frontcourt, the Lumberjacks feature 6’7” junior Gavin Kensmil, who averages 12.3 points on 66.7% shooting, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per contest. They also have 6’7” freshman Sama’Zha Hart who is posting 10.0 points and 2.7 boards per game.
As a team, SFA is shooting 49.4% from the floor, 37.7% from three-point range, and 73.7% from the free throw line. They’re scoring a ton in the early going, averaging 88.5 points per game, although they haven’t played a high major opponent yet.
All eleven scholarship players for Rutgers are healthy so far this season.
Notes: As a team, Rutgers is shooting 44.3% from the floor, 67.4% from the free throw line, and 28.0% from three-point range. They the Big Ten in blocks and are 17th in the country with 6.5 per game, while they are third in the Big Ten with 42 rebounds per contest, while 41st in the country with a +9.8 rebounding margin. The program announced this week that 6-8 F Oskar Palmquist and 6-10 F Dean Reiber signed their national letter of intents to play at Rutgers beginning next season. Two scholarship spots remain in the class of 2020 recruiting class as of now.
Keys To Victory
Take care of the basketball
SFA currently leads the country in forcing 27.5 turnovers per game, has the no. 1 defensive turnover rate in Division I at 34.6% and the 17th best defensive steal rate at 15.0%. It is crucial that Rutgers be smart with the basketball and limit mistakes resulting in turnovers. They don’t want to give SFA easy baskets in transition off turnovers and need to maximize their own possessions as much as possible. Jacob Young was a bright spot in the loss to the Bonnies, dishing out 8 assists and committing just 1 turnover. He, Geo Baker, and Paul Mulcahy need to be sharp with the basketball when they have the rock. As a team, Rutgers needs to make smart passes as well. On the flip side, SFA is averaging 21.3 turnovers per game, so Rutgers needs to pressure their guards and look to force mistakes that can lead to easy transition baskets.
Defend the Three
Rutgers has done a poor job with this through four games so far and they need to improve starting against SFA, who are shooting a solid 37.7% from three-point range to start the season. If Rutgers wants to avoid the upset, limiting turnovers and contesting every three-point shot that SFA takes is so important. The Scarlet Knights need to do a better job of finding their man quicker when getting back on defense after a fast break. It’s especially important finding Harris and not letting him find open space to make them pay. RU needs to be more aggressive along the perimeter in the halfcourt as well and not allow too much cushion for their shooters. Just as I felt St. Bonaventure was due a good shooting game against RU, if the guards can do a good job of pressuring SFA along the perimeter, I think they’ll struggle from behind the arc tonight. If they don’t, Rutgers could be on upset alert once again.
Crash the Boards
The Scarlet Knights are averaging 42 rebounds per game and its been a group effort, as six players are pulling down 4 or more boards per contest. They need to continue the “all hands on deck” approach in this game, as SFA has the 23rd best offensive rebounding rate (38.0%) and are limiting opponents to just a 17.7% rate on the offensive glass, which is 6th best in the country. Limiting SFA second chance opportunities is a must. Rutgers is 20th in the country with an offensive rebounding rate of 38.2%, so whichever team controls the boards will have an advantage.
Attack the Rim
Rutgers needs to let their three-point shot come to them and focus on attacking the basket to help get them in a rhythm, while also taking more high percentage shots. While they’ve shared the basketball relatively well this season, they need to make getting to the rim more of a priority. Rarely have we seen them feed Myles Johnson and Shaq Carter in the post, but establishing things in the paint will help open up space along the perimeter as the game progresses. Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr. have been effective in the past at slashing to the rim along the baseline and Jacob Young needs to use his quickness to penetrate and find open teammates. They need to stop settling for long jumpers to early in the game and have a more attacking mindset.
Make Free Throws
Overall, they’ve been better in this area but 67% is not enough improvement, as the hope should be they become a 70% or better shooting team from the charity stripe. They’ve also done a good job getting to the line, but have been inconsistent converting once there. This is the type of opponent they need to take advantage of the freebies in order to help keep the score at arm’s length. Caleb McConnell (10 of 11) and Geo Baker (6 of 7) have been excellent so far, but haven’t gotten there enough. Montez Mathis has been improved so far (7 of 10) while Ron Harper Jr. (11 of 19) and Jacob Young (8 of 14) have struggled early. Time to settle in with this game and knock them down to help establish and maintain a healthy lead.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the fifth game of the season, I’m featuring Hold On by the Alabama Shakes. This song rocks and Rutgers needs to bounce back in a big way in this game after its first loss of the season. Learn from it and move on. Don’t let it develop into a bigger issue. As fans, hold on and hope for this team to show its getting better with a strong performance tonight. Have faith, it’s still early, but this team needs to find its identity starting with this game.