After converting on their first Big East victory of the year, Rutgers looks to make it two in a row as they face off against St. Johns tonight.
The Scarlet Knights squeaked by Notre Dame last Saturday, 74-73. Mike Rosario ignited the Knights, hitting eight of 15 from the field, good for 24 points. On the defensive end, Hamady Ndiaye’s ability to prevent Luke Harangody from getting to the basket was extremely crucial. He forced the Irish’s star to take outside shots and not make any easy baskets. This led to the former Big East Player of the Year shooting a heinous eight of 26 from the floor.
St. Johns comes into town on a three game losing streak, after dropping their latest game to the Pittsburgh Panthers, 63-53. The Red Storm led at halftime, 28-24, but they gave the game away in the second half. Justin Burrell led the team with 14 points.
At the pre-game press conference leading up to tonight’s game, Norm Roberts, head coach of St. Johns, had this to say: “We don’t handle this game any different than if we’re playing UConn, Louisville or anybody else. It’s a Big East game. You know it’s gonna be a battle, you’re on the road, you’re gonna be in a hostile environment, obviously the RAC is a great environment and their student body really comes out and really helps them. So we’re gonna have to be very, very focused.”
If Rutgers wants to add another W to their record and get back to .500, they cannot allow St. Johns to break out to an early lead, as Pittsburgh condoned.
They must get Mike Rosario shooting early on as they did against Notre Dame. His knack for hitting shots needs to be taken advantage of early and often. Every team defensively will attempt to eliminate Rosario from the game completely. When this happens, it leaves easy opportunities for Dane Miller and Jonathan Mitchell. The stats may not show it, but they both can shoot exceptionally well, especially Mitchell.
Roberts also had this to say about Rosario and company: “As a whole, as a team, I think they have a lot of talent. Mike Rosario can really shoot the ball and score, and he really broke out against Notre Dame, making shots, so that’s gonna be a big key, that we’re gonna have to guard him well.”
Defensively they have to stop allowing easy transition baskets and shots. Against Notre Dame they played soft, not running through screens hard, allowing open shots. Hamady Ndiaye will hold down his fort underneath the basket, but can sometimes get bullied around. The loss of Gregory Echenique was huge, as it eliminated that bulky, hulk-like feature from around the rim. When Ndiaye is on the bench, Austin Johnson is called upon to fill in.
Mike Coburn’s energy off the bench and ability to get to rim will lead to open lay-ups for other Knight players or free throws for himself.
St. Johns doesn’t have a star like Scottie Reynolds or Greg Monroe or Luke Harangody, but they do have a D.J. Kennedy. Kennedy does almost everything on both ends of the court for the Red Storm. He leads the team per game in scoring, assists, steals, and is second in the rebound category by only .1.
Norm Roberts finished with this: “What we have to do is wear them down, we’ve gotta use a lot of bodies, we gotta pressure them defensively, take them outta what they wanna do, and limit their easy opportunities."
Rosario can’t do everything on offense and Ndiaye can’t control the defensive end by himself. If Rutgers wants their second Big East win, they will need others to come up big on both sides of the ball.
Scoring: Mike Rosario (Rutgers): 15.7 PTS/GM; D.J. Kennedy (St. Johns): 15 PTS/GM
Rebounds: Hamady Ndiaye (Rutgers): 6.4 REB/GM; Sean Evans (St. Johns): 6.5 REB/GM
Assists: Mike Coburn (Rutgers): 3.7 AST/GM; D.J. Kennedy (St. Johns): 3.2 AST/GM
Blocks: Hamady Ndiaye (Rutgers): 4.7 BLK/GM; Dele Coker (St. Johns): 1.2 BLK/GM
Steals: James Beatty (Rutgers): 1.4 STL/GM; D.J. Kennedy (St. Johns): 1.2 STL/GM
Hamady Ndiaye (Rutgers) leads the Big East in blocks with 99 through 21 games. Gavin Edwards (UCONN) is 53 behind Ndiaye for second with only 46.
After leading Rutgers to their first Big East win on the season, Mike Rosario was named to the Big East Conference Honor Roll.
Rutgers’ last victory against St. Johns at the RAC was January 24, 2004.
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