On Tuesday night, Rutgers played Clemson in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, a game that was being called the first November must-win game in college basketball history. Coming off a 3-game losing streak, the Scarlet Knights were desperate for a good outing. They got one by finally putting together a full 40 minutes on both ends of the court, thanks to the contributions of some unlikely sources. Let’s get to the film.
A few minutes into the 1st half, we finally had a Jalen Miller sighting. He entered the game and immediately brought energy and on-ball pressure.
The next clip below is a simple but intriguing defensive sequence, with Miller guarding Nick Honor in the 2nd half. Notice the little half-step Miller takes after he gets to the top of the key to cut off a drive. Then when Honor receives the pass, Miller jumps back out to him, gets over a ball screen, recovers without fouling, and pressures Honor into passing it back out. Nothing spectacular, but really solid fundamentally.
Miller only saw 7 minutes of action, so it’s tough to draw elaborate conclusions. But I was impressed by how he handled the moment. From a defensive perspective, it didn’t look too big for him. With his quickness and lateral movement as a defender, he should be able to carve out a role in Pike’s rotation moving forward.
In his 4 thoughts after this game, Dave White touched on another really positive sign - the re-emergence of Caleb McConnell. After a really bad start, McConnell put together his two best games of the season back-to-back (UMass and Clemson). The difference appears to be a combination of better shot selection and a renewed confidence. In the Clemson game, it started right from the opening tip and continued throughout.
Lots of similarities in those three shots. He gets to his spot and rises up with confidence. No hesitation at all.
With a little over two minutes to go, Rutgers went to the Horns action they run occasionally and McConnell had the ball in his hands. In this one, Cliff provides a high ball screen, McConnell turns the corner with intent, gets downhill and draws the foul.
I’m not sure he makes that read as quickly in one of the first six games. Or maybe he hesitates because the shot hasn’t been falling. A little confidence goes a long way.
There were a lot of good takeaways from the Clemson game, but one troubling trend showed up again as Rutgers tried to hold on to a late lead. Not one, but two times in the last 6 minutes of the game, a Scarlet Knight defender got beat on a backdoor cut for a layup.
This is something that seems to show up at least once or twice every game. Rutgers was fortunate enough to hang on for a win in this one, but you cannot continue to give away easy baskets in close games.
On Friday night, Rutgers traveled to Illinois for a game that wasn’t much of a game. There’s not much to take away from this one. It was a “burn the film” type of game from a Rutgers’ perspective. But I did want to point something out that I’ve highlighted as an issue in previous film sessions - perimeter defense. It’s been bad all season and that continued against Illinois.
On that first play, the Scarlet Knights tried to double Kofi Cockburn and got burned. That would be a theme for the night.
Then there were times when Illinois would bring the ball up and find an open look with 23 seconds left on the shot clock.
I’ll let Jerry Carino provide the last word.
In total agreement with Robbie Hummel: Effort is Rutgers' No. 1 problem tonight.— Jerry Carino (@NJHoopsHaven) December 4, 2021
Upcoming Week: Purdue on Thursday Dec. 9th / @Seton Hall on Sunday Dec. 12th