The Rutgers men's basketball team lost to in-state rival Princeton in its season opener on Monday by a score of 68-61. The Scarlet Knights (0-1, 0-0) will have two more chances to get their first win of the season when they take on Boston University on Friday and Bryant on Sunday.
Friday's contest will be Rutgers' home opener at Jersey Mike's Arena on Livingston campus. The Knights season opener against the Tigers (1-0, 0-0) took place at CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton and was credited as a neutral-site game.
This season, Rutgers' play style is different from years past, and that was clear against Princeton. Head coach Steve Pikiell's team was getting up and down the floor in a hurry compared to his slow, methodical teams of years prior.
With this new style of play, the Knights are still working out the kinks offensively. Rutgers knocked down four three-pointers and struggled to finish at the rim against the Tigers, but the home opener against the Terriers (0-1, 0-0) may be what the Knights need to tune things up.
Boston University lost its first game to Northeastern by a score of 67-58. Despite the loss, the Terriers made nine three-pointers and will be looking for similar production from behind the arc against Rutgers. Three-point defense was one of the reasons Princeton was able to defeat the Knights, as the Tigers shot 9-20 from deep.
Another advantage Rutgers should look for is turnover margin. The Knights turned the ball over nine times to Princeton's 12 on Monday, and Boston University turned the ball over 14 times in their game. Feisty on-ball defenders like freshman guard Jamichael Davis and fifth-year guard Noah Fernandes should look to apply pressure and get steals.
Rutgers will then welcome the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-0) to the "Trapezoid of Terror" on Sunday. Bryant will be coming into the matchup following a resounding 140-79 victory over NAIA opponent Fisher College. Aside from that lopsided affair, the Bulldogs lost their only other game this season against Manhattan College by a score of 61-59.
The Knights will need to key in defensively on Sherif Gross-Bullock, who is averaging 20.5 points per game through the first two games. Rutgers should also shoot and rebound better if it wants to get in the win column in this week's games.
While the Knights should not overlook their opponents, both games should provide them with opportunities to progress and avoid digging an early-season hole.
Friday's contest against the Terriers will tip off at 7 p.m., while Sunday's match against Bryant will begin at noon. Both games will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
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