RU tries to fix defensive issues
The Rutgers men’s basketball team’s problem is not scoring. It built up a 22-point lead Saturday against Iona.
But as quickly as the Scarlet Knights reached that point, they began their descent and nearly lost their lead eight minutes later.
The Gaels ended the game with 73 points, more than Rutgers should allow to a MAAC opponent.
While the Knights often play a transition style of offense, Iona does so with four guards, yielding a much faster pace.
That became an issue at Madison Square Garden as Rutgers tried to keep up.
“We just started playing at their pace and got away from what we did,” said junior guard Mike Poole on Saturday. “They’re a good team. They did what good teams do, they fight back.”
While the Knights’ adherence to another team’s style of play has not been a constant this season, inconsistency has.
Often Rutgers cannot put together two equally strong halves of basketball, leading to several subpar defensive performances of late.
The team has allowed its opponents’ point totals to exceed 70 in its last four games. Opponents reached 80 points twice during that span.
That is part of what holds the team back, said head coach Mike Rice.
“Consistency, not getting in our own way, is a general theme with this team,” Rice said. “If they just make simple plays and share the game, I think this team could be very good.”
The only excuse Rutgers could use for the previous game is that Iona has cracked 80 and 90 twice this season.
But that does not explain the other high point totals. That circles back to the consistency.
“We’re going to work on it every single day,” Rice said. “We work on being consistent and doing it as hard as you can and as well as you can every single play.”
That consistency will face a test again tonight when the Knights (5-2) welcome George Washington (4-5) to the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
For Rutgers, there is an upside. While Iona boasts two players who score roughly 20 points per game and average about 79 points per game, the Colonials are not as potent on the offensive end.
Forward Isaiah Armwood, a Villanova transfer, leads the team with 12.9 points per game, while the next two highest scorers average fewer than 11 points.
As a team, George Washington averages less than 65 points per game.
Rutgers will have to worry more about the Colonials’ defense, which allows opponents little more than 63 points per game.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.