Another chapter in the Rutgers-Seton Hall Garden State rivalry will begin Saturday at noon at the Prudential Center. Ten of the past 12 meetings between the two schools have been decided by either six points or fewer. This one should be no exception, as both seek to remain as far from the Big East basement as possible. Rutgers and Seton Hall are 2-4 and 2-5 in conference play, respectively, so this game could decide who stays in the hunt for a top ten Big East finish. With all of these storylines, among others, let’s take a look inside this sure-to-be-great matchup.
Rutgers is coming off of a 71-62 win over South Florida on Thursday night. The Knights got off to a quick 8-0, but the Bulls clawed back and the two teams were knotted at the half, 25-25. The Bulls came out strong after intermission, taking a 30-25 lead in the early going. Then, James Beatty caught fire for the Scarlet Knights. Beatty hit three three-pointers in a row. Then, Dane Miller capitalized the Rutgers run with a thunderous jam to push the Knights to a 36-30 lead. Once again, the Bulls pulled back and the two teams were tied once again, 44-44. Then, James Beatty hit another three and the Knights lead for good. Beatty and Jonathan Mitchell both had 20 to lead Rutgers to their second Big East victory.
Keys to the game.
1. Give James Beatty the Ball. James Beatty was electric from distance in the second half against the Bulls. He hit four threes at the most opportune times, but this is not the first time Beatty has hit key threes. Against Georgetown, Beatty hit a couple of huge threes, including one that cut the Hoyas lead to four with nine minutes to go. Against Marquette, Beatty hit six threes and kept Rutgers in striking distance the whole way through. Against Providence, Beatty pushed a 35-35 tie to a 41-35 lead for Rutgers in the early part of the second half. Clearly, when James Beatty is shooting, the Scarlet Knights are in good shape.
2. Keep Playing Pressure Defense. Rutgers has been playing on-ball, pressure defense all year with Mike Rice at the helm. With their lack of size, their best chance at getting a stop is by forcing turnovers, which they do very well. They will need to play up on their Seton Hall counterparts, as the Pirates shoot well from the outside and love high-scoring games. They must pressure Jeremy Hazell, as he can shoot from virtually any spot on the court (he knocks down nearly three three’s per game for his career).
3. No Wasted Posessions. Rutgers isn’t the most proficient offensive team to say the least. Their halfcourt offense has looked horrible at times. Therefore, they can’t turn the ball over on careless plays or take ill-advised shots, as every possession is precious for the Knights.
Seton Hall gave Georgetown all they could handle in an 80-75 loss to the Hoyas. Seton Hall played a pretty good first half, but still trailed 38-31 at half time. In the second half, the Pirates didn’t come out strong, until a 19-2 run gave them a 52-45 lead with 12:13 to play. Seton Hall maintained a comfortable lead until the Hoyas stormed back and took the lead 74-73. The Hall was down 76-73 in the final minute when Jordan Theodore hit a deep shot for Seton Hall. It was called a two since Theodore’s foot was on the line. After two Hoya free throws, the Pirates trailed, 78-75. Georgetown fouled with eight ticks to go so Seton Hall couldn’t tie the game. That plan worked and the Pirates were defeated in a close one.
Keys to the Game. 1. Hit Free Throws. The Pirates missed critical free throws against Georgetown late in the game. For the game, they shot just 11-18 from the charity stripe. If the game against Rutgers is a close game, which it might very well be, the end result could be decided at the line.
2. Get Out in Transition. There is a very telling statistic about Rutgers. They have not lost a game when holding their opponent to 65 points or less, but are 1-7 when failing to do so. Seton Hall wants to see this game go well into the 70’s, as that will give them their best shot at winning. To make this a highs-scoring affair, Seton Hall will have to push the ball off of Rutger's misses. If their transition game is effective, the Pirates will be in business.
3. Hit Threes. This one might be the most important of all. Against then No. 4 Syracuse, Seton Hall played the Orange extremely close in a 61-56 decision. They did this without the superb three-point shooting of Jeremy Hazell. His absence was evident, as SHU missed all 13 first-half threes and went 3-26 for the game. If they hit 10 of those, they would have been in great position to take down the Orange. If they want to win games, the must hit a good percentage of their threes.
Gil Biruta vs. Herb Pope. It’s a given that both teams will hit their fair share of threes and mid-range jumpers, so the game will be won in the trenches of the painted area. The rebounding battle between Biruta and Pope will be paramount to the victor of this game. Look for the winner of this battle to lead his team to victory.
Tune in tomorrow at noon on SNY to see this battle between Rutgers and Seton Hall. It should be a thriller.