Lafayette (7-2) vs. Rutgers (8-3)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC (8,000 capacity) in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Sunday, December 22nd at 1:00 p.m. ET
Promotion: Student For A Game: $15 student section ticket will be available for purchase by the general public.
TV: ESPNU - Dave Leno and Robbie Hummel
Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network (WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/SiriusXM 372; Chris Carlin & Joe Boylan); WRSU 88.7 FM (Jake Schmied & Randy DeGregorio)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 56th; Lafayette 184th; Rutgers has moved up 13 spots since win over Seton Hall.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 104.5 (88th) Defense 91.6 (40th); Lafayette - 104.3 (91st) Defense 105.9 (300th)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 76 Lafayette 63; Rutgers has a 88% chance to win
Vegas Line: Rutgers -15.5
Series History: Lafayette is the second most played opponent in Rutgers basketball history, dating back to 1917. Rutgers leads the all-time series 68-47 with a 90-79 victory in the last meeting in 2007. Also note that head coach Steve Pikiell is 0-4 all-time against Lafayette from his time at Stony Brook.
Lafayette Scouting Report
Head coach Fran O’Hanlon is in his 25th season in charge and has the Leopards off to a 7-2 start, including a five game winning streak and 4-0 record against Ivy League opponents. Their best win of the season was against Penn (KenPom no. 113) and talso beat St. Joseph’s from the Atlantic 10.
Lafayette is a tremendous shooting team, as they are third in the country in three-point field goal percentage (42.9%), fifth in field goals (51.5%) and 24th in free throw shooting (77.3%). In addition, they second in Division I in effective field goal percentage (59.5%). The Leopards are scoring 77.8 points per game and are allowing only 68.7 points per game.
They are led by 6’2” junior guard Justin Jaworski, who averages 20.7 points on 54.3% shooting from the floor and 47.3% from three-point range (26 of 55), which is 20th best in the country. He is also automatic from the free throw line, making 34 of 37 for 91.9% this season.
6’8” senior forward Myles Cherry leads the frontcourt with 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. He is shooting a sterling 70.5% from the floor.
Other key shooters of note from three-point range include 6’1” sophomore Tyrone Perry (8.1 points, 43.2%), 6’1” junior E.J. Stephens (10.8 points, 40.9%), 6’8” senior Lukas Jarrett (9.0 points, 38.1%), and 6’6” senior Kyle Stout (5.8 points, 36.4%).
No significant injuries for either team.
Notes: As a team, Rutgers is shooting 46.5% from the floor, 28.7% from three-point range, and 66.0% from the free throw line......The Scarlet Knights are second in the Big Ten in steals with 7.2 and turnovers forced at 14.8 per game, third in scoring defense at 61.8 points allowed per contest, fourth in blocks at 5.2, and fifth in field goal percentage defense at 46.5% and rebounding margin +8.4.....Rutgers is undefeated this season at the RAC (8-0) and limiting opponents to under 60 points per game (6-0).....They are ranked 53rd in the NCAA NET rankings that debuted this past week.
Steve Pikiell Pregame Quote
“The RAC has been jumping. The students have been awesome. The environment for the Seton Hall game was electric. That really helps our guys. This program has really grown. To come in now and see the place packed and having the support of our community is great. Lafayette is a dangerous basketball team. They are one of the top-three point shooting teams in the country. We’ll have to keep our guys focused on this matchup.”
Keys To Victory
Suffocating Perimeter Defense
The Leopards take between 40-60% of its shots per game from behind the arc. They’ve made less than 8 shots from three-point range only once all season and in that game they made 7. The key is for Rutgers to use their length to pressure and contest as many shots as possible. Pushing Lafayette back behind the arc on halfcourt possessions so they have to run its offense farther away will help make them uncomfortable as well. Getting into passing lanes and forcing turnovers is important too and help limit ball reversals.
Punish Them With Points In The Paint
Rutgers has a major advantage with size and athleticism which should be most evident in the paint. They need to feed the monster, Myles Johnson, who Seton Hall had no answer to so it’s unlikely Lafayette will either. The guards and wings should be able to beat their defenders off the dribble at times and get to the rim. Rutgers can’t fall in love with a three-point duel against the Leopards and need to pound it in the paint. RU is shooting 54.5% from two-point range and there is no reason they can’t takeover inside in this game. At the same time, their size should be a problem for Lafayette, who are 7th in the country from two point range at 59.5%. However, they haven’t faced a team with the inside presence of Rutgers. This should be a major mismatch in the game and the defense shouldn’t allow for any easy looks.
Own The Glass
Rutgers has been out rebounding everyone lately and Sunday’s game should be no exception. The Scarlet Knights are 38th in Division I with a 34.0% offensive rebounding rate, while they are holding opponents to just 23.8%, which is 43rd best. Limiting second chance points and Lafayette the opportunity to kick the basketball back out to the three-point line for potential daggers is a must. The more Rutgers controls the boards, the more pressure Lafayette will have to make shots.
Speed Up The Game
Lafayette plays with an adjusted tempo ranked 301st out of 353 DI teams, so they prefer a slow, halfcourt game. Rutgers has the speed and athleticism to be a major problem in transition. Expect some spurts of fullcourt pressure, which has been effective in recent games. The more they can speed things up and force Lafayette out of its comfort zone the better.
Exorcise Ghosts of December’s Past
The RAC is not going to be anywhere close to the advantage or environment that it was last weekend against Seton Hall. School is on break and the student section will be quiet. It’s the last weekend day off for most people before Christmas. I’d guess there won’t be more than 5,000 fans in attendance. That’s still solid considering, but Rutgers needs to generate its own momentum by coming out focused with the task at hand. They need to avoid a major letdown after the biggest win of the season and keep positive vibes going into the holidays. The past two seasons Rutgers has had resume killing losses to Stony Brook and Hartford at the RAC, as well as Fordham on the road. Lafayette is capable of winning this game if they catch fire from three and Rutgers doesn’t play smart, disciplined basketball.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the tenth game of the season, I’m featuring A Long December by the Counting Crows. In particular, this lyric seems most appropriate for this game: “And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe. Maybe this year will be better than the last.” Avoid the letdown after a big win like they haven’t done in recent seasons. After a huge last week with wins over Wisconsin and Seton Hall, they must finish the month strong, starting on Sunday vs. Lafayette. I don’t care by how much, just get the W and every Rutgers fan will be happy while home for the holidays.