RU looks for offensive motion
Ten months and only 10 wins into Eddie Jordan’s Rutgers head men’s basketball coaching career, his players still don’t quite get his message yet.
“I haven’t been able to get our guys to make plays,” Jordan said Tuesday post-practice. “We’ve got to make plays against pressure defense against physical play. We have to stay organized and disciplined, and that’s a big theme of ours.”
The Scarlet Knights’ (10-16, 4-9) inability to apply his coaching brought them to their most lopsided loss of the season: Sunday’s 102-54 defeat to Louisville.
Memphis (19-6, 8-4) also humiliated Rutgers on Feb. 4, 101-69. It is possible, perhaps even likely, the No. 22 team does it again tonight at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
After the loss to Louisville, Rutgers doesn’t want that silencing feeling twice in one week.
“There was really nothing to be said,” said senior forward Wally Judge. “Everybody has something in them that tells them that can’t happen again. If you’re a man, you can’t accept things like that. Nobody wants to lose, let alone lose like that. The way that we respond is going to show our character when we go against Memphis.”
Memphis enters Piscataway most recently suffering an 86-81 overtime loss Saturday to No. 21 Connecticut. UConn guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright scored 34 and 21 points, respectively.
Napier shot 10-for-21 from the field, including 5-for-12 from 3-point range. Boatright made four field goals, but sank 11 of his 12 free throws.
Rutgers must impose that physicality to get to the line but also shoot consistently.
“Sometimes teams can’t throw a rock in the ocean,” Judge said. “I think at one point at SMU, we probably went five minutes without a field goal or something like that. And we understand things like that can’t happen. When we’re not hitting from the outside, because a lot of those misses are jump shots, we’ve got to try to get into the paint, get into the free throw line, feed the post.”
That means Rutgers’ offense needs more motion. Louisville’s defense was swift enough to trap Rutgers ballhandlers in all parts of the court, and the Knights did little to help without the ball.
“When we pass the ball, just to get through and not stand around because if you’re standing, the defense can just stand,” said junior guard Myles Mack of how to combat those defenses.
But Memphis’ perimeter defense ranks second in the AAC, with a .302 3-point percentage allowed — just behind Louisville’s .301.
Memphis is balanced enough offensively to take advantage of a weak opponent. The highest any Tiger scored in a game this season was guard Joe Jackson’s 24 points against UConn. One player scoring more is usually unnecessary for them.
Jackson also has several passing options. He averages 4.6 assists per game and leads the AAC with a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio — tied with Rutgers junior guard Jerome Seagears.
Time is dwindling for Rutgers to find that balance on either end.
“[Louisville and Memphis] got us disorganized because of their pressure, and that’s what pressure wants you do to,” Jordan said.
Knight Note: The first 1,000 fans in attendance against Memphis get a Jordan bobblehead, which depicts the 59-year-old from his playing days at Rutgers.
“I saw one, and I plan to get a small afro and lose about 40 pounds so I can look the same way,” Jordan joked. “I’ve seen it, and it’s pretty impressive — a whole lot better looking than I thought it would be, than I am for sure.”