On Friday evening, Rutgers played their final non-conference game against Seton Hall before a sell-out crowd at the Prudential Center. The instate rivals are no longer in the same conference and now play each other in a yearly event called the Garden State Hardwood Classics.
With both schools coming in on five-game winning streaks, the showdown was highly anticipated. In fact, the third annual Garden State Hardwood Classic was the BTPowerhouse Game of the Week and was broadcast nationally on Fox Sports 1.
The Christmas-Eve-Eve contest didn’t disappoint. Rutgers looked to be in control early, taking a 32-23 lead into halftime. After a back-and-forth second period, Seton Hall eventually outlasted the Scarlet Knights for a 72-61 win.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Rutgers Gives Max Effort On Defense.
Over the course of the first 36 minutes, it wasn’t a high-powered offense that kept Rutgers in the game. The Scarlet Knights defense and effort were their keys to keeping it close.
Rutgers played with an intensity that we haven’t seen since Mike Rice was the coach. The Scarlet Knights came out like junk yard dogs, holding Seton Hall scoreless for the first five minutes of the game. In the first half, Rutgers only allowed 23 points and were able to score numerous fast-break buckets off of Seton Hall turnovers.
The most important thing Rutgers did was hold the Pirates star players in check. Khadeen Carrington (19.2 ppg) and Angel Delgado (14.3 ppg) were held to a combined 10 first-half points,
In the second half, the intensity stayed the same but Seton Hall was able to execute and hit shots. In fact, Carrington and Delgado both exploded. The pair finished the game with 20 and 19 points, respectively.
When the game was on the line, Rutgers looked lost at times. You could make the argument that the Scarlet Knights’ weak non-conference schedule left them ill-prepared to handle pressure situations. That may be true, but if they can continue playing hard-nosed defense, their future looks bright.
2. Outside Of Corey Sanders And Nigel Johnson, The Scarlet Knights Have A Hard Time Creating On Offense.
The Rutgers offense isn’t overly creative as it is. They operate out of a spread system and rely on ball movement to create open shots or drives. Throughout the year, they have scored a lot of points by hitting the offensive glass and getting second possessions.
In the Seton Hall game, they were only able to grab six offensive boards, largely because they faced a premier big man in Angel Delgado. Without their usual offensive rebound count, Rutgers had to hit jump shots and get to the basket.
Corey Sanders or Nigel Johnson did a nice job creating offense for Rutgers. They definitely pass the eye-test in terms of being quality scorers and ball handlers. The two guards combined for more than half of the teams 61 total points.
However, when you get beyond those two guys, there isn’t one player who can consistently create his own shot. Junior shooting guard Mike Williams tries, but he’s more of a three point specialist. While swingman Deshawn Freeman is a nice player, he relies more on hustle than actual offensive talent.
Rutgers needs to develop another guy who can handle the ball, or continue to be handicapped by only having Sanders and Johnson.
On the bright side, the Scarlet Knights did have some success with high/low ball movement in the first half. With so many quality big guys, that could be a spot where they can increase their offensive output.
3. Seven-footer C.J Gettys Struggled Against Angel Delgado.
Hopefully it was just an off game for the graduate-transfer from UNCW. In only 16 minutes, Gettys turned the ball over four times and was 1 for 7 from the field.
The four turnovers are a season high for Gettys and the 14.2 percent shooting was a season low. Some of the plays he made were very uncharacteristic; including a wide open missed lay-up, an airballed hook shot, and an errant pass at the top of the key that ended up in the second row.
Maybe the most telling statistic of all though, was the fact that he didn’t grab a single rebound.
Despite the poor performance, Gettys is a key contributor for Rutgers this year. The team certainly wouldn’t be 11-2 without him. Moving forward, I hope he can put this game behind him and get back to producing efficient games for the Scarlet Knights.
This game was equal parts heartbreaking and encouraging. Going into the game, fans knew how much the win would have meant to the program. To have them be up at halftime and then lose, made the loss tough to swallow.
On the other hand, they did show a national audience that they’re no longer a laughing stock. Even in a loss, it’s clear that Rutgers can now regularly compete in the Big Ten.