NJIT (2-4) vs. Rutgers (4-1)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC (8,000) in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Tuesday, November 26th at 7:00 p.m. ET
Promotion: $15 200 Level Tickets with the Michigan State Football game Ticket Stub
TV: BTN - Wayne Randazzo and Christy Winters Scott
Stream: FOX Sports App
Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network (WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/SiriusXM 372; Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan); WRSU 88.7 FM (Justin Sontupe & Chris Tsakonas)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 85th; NJIT 193rd; Rutgers moved back 6 spots since the win over Stephen F. Austin.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 101.9 (112th) Defense 93.2 (74th); NJIT - 99.6 (159th) Defense 101.9 (232nd)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 71 NJIT 61; Rutgers has a 83% chance to win
Vegas Line: Rutgers -12.5
Series History: Rutgers leads the series 6-0 all-time, including a 73-64 victory in the last meeting on December 7th, 2017.
NJIT Scouting Report
Head coach Brian Kennedy is in his 4th season leading the Highlanders, who were picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic Sun preseason poll. They have started the season with a 2-4 record and are 1-1 against Ivy League opponents, beating Cornell but losing to Brown in their last game on Saturday.
The Highlanders are led by 5’9” junior guard Zach Cooks, who is fifth in the country in scoring as he averages 25.5 points per game, as well as 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.7 steals. He has an offensive rating of 115.7 and is shooting 46.8% from the floor, 34.8% from three-point range and 77.8% from the free throw line. He is joined in the backcourt by 6’1” senior Shyquan Gibbs, who is averaging 8.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest.
The frontcourt is led by 6’8” junior forward San Antonio Brinson, who is averaging 10.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He is joined in the paint by 6’9” sophomore forward Souleymane Diakite, who is averaging 5.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per contest.
As a team, NJIT is shooting 42.1% from the floor, 31.5% from three-point range and 70.2% from the free throw line. They are averaging 67.8 points per game, but are allowing opponents to score 73.2 points per game.
All eleven scholarship players for Rutgers are healthy so far this season.
Notes: As a team, Rutgers is shooting 45.0% from the floor, 29.0% from three-point range, and 65.9% from the free throw line. They lead the Big Ten in blocks and are 9th in the country with 6.6 per game, while they are 2nd in the Big Ten with 7.6 steals per contest, as well as 45th in the country with a +8.4 rebounding margin. The Scarlet Knights have three players scoring in double digits per game with Geo Baker (12.4 points), Akwasi Yeboah (11.2 points), and Ron Harper Jr. (10.4 points).
Keys To Victory
Take care of the basketball
Rutgers is averaging almost 14 turnovers per game and although they did a better job in the second half against Stephen F. Austin, a team that leads the country in takeaways, it’s been a recurring issue all season. Jacob Young is averaging 3.0 and Geo Baker is averaging 2.4 per contest. Obviously these two handle the rock more than most, but they need to be better in taking care of the basketball. Playing a more up tempo style can lead to more mistakes, but Rutgers needs to work on cleaning this up before the schedule really ramps up next week.
Continue to play lockdown defense
The defensive effort last week against SFA showed major progress, as they held the Lumberjacks to 31 points below its season average. They closed out much better in defending three-point shots and that needs to continue. Also doing a better job of closing driving lanes will be important, especially against Cooks, who is quick and able to penetrate. Transition defense is important as well, as Rutgers can’t allow any easy baskets to prevent NJIT from generating any significant scoring runs.
Crash the Boards
The Scarlet Knights were outrebounded by SFA, but have an opportunity to dominate the glass against NJIT. Taking advantage of second chance scoring chances, as well as limiting NJIT to one shot per possession are keys to keeping them at a comfortable distance in this game.
Attack the Rim
Don’t get over reliant on the deep ball and continue to look for opportunities for high percentage shots near the rim. Rutgers didn’t do this against SFA, but were fortunate to start hot from three-point range, making 4 in the first few minutes. However, they can’t rely on that happening every game and the more they establish its offense by attacking the basketball and scoring in the paint, the more open outside looks will be as the game progresses. Getting the frontcourt involved scoring wise would be nice to see as well with Myles Johnson, Shaq Carter and Mamadou Doucoure, who played well in his last game.
Make Free Throws
It’s a broken record at this point, but Rutgers makes things so much harder on themselves by not converting at a high rate at the free throw line. This team ideally needs to make 70% or better of its shots per game from the charity stripe and tonight is another chance to do that. They’ve proven capable at times, but need to be more consistent. NJIT is going to give Rutgers its best shot in hopes of pulling off the upset against the state university, but making free throws will help prevent that from coming close to happening.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the sixth game of the season, I’m featuring The National’s Mr. November. Don’t read into all of the lyrics, there is no perfect song that ties into basketball, but it’s a spirited song about heroes and of course, November. Hopefully, Rutgers has plenty of players step up tonight and later this week to put themselves in a position to make some noise moving into the four game gauntlet that awaits.