Notebook: Deshawn Freeman, C.J. Gettys power Rutgers through shooting woes in win over Morgan State
The Rutgers men's basketball team's continued shooting woes turned out to be its best source of offense against Morgan State last Saturday.
The Scarlet Knights combatted their 37.8 percent shooting from the field, going 2-for-16 from downtown, by grabbing those misses off the rim and scoring inside. The Knights hauled in 18 offensive rebounds, tallied a staggering 29 second-chance points and scored 42 points in the paint overall in their 72-58 win over Morgan State at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
Rutgers' strong presence inside also yielded 27 trips to the free throw line, as 62 of its points came from the charity stripe and painted area combined.
"You always wanna win the battle of the free throw line, and obviously, we were getting the ball inside in the post," said head coach Steve Pikiell. "If you're not making threes, you've gotta figure out another way to attack (the 2-3 zone) ... I thought early we got good looks too. When you don't make them you gotta get it to the post."
At the forefront of the Knights' relentless attack on the boards was Rutgers' two leading rebounders entering the night.
Junior forward Deshawn Freeman came in as the Knights' leading scorer and rebounder. He recorded team-highs in both categories, tallying 22 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. It was the junior captain's fifth double-double in eight games.
Right behind Freeman was senior center C.J. Gettys, who continued his impressive start to his career on the Banks finished with 15 points on a perfect 7-of-7 from the field and seven rebounds.
Freeman and Gettys combined to corral half of Rutgers' offensive rebounds.
"I felt like I played well," Gettys said. "Played off my teammates a lot, they gave me the ball at the right place at the right time and I was able to finish and make a couple of plays. Without them, I couldn’t get the ball. I’m a 7-feet-tall center, I couldn’t bring the ball up the court myself, as much as I’d like to."
Holding a 31-27 lead early in the second half, Gettys kicked off the Knights' scoring in the latter frame with his own personal 6-0 run in the paint to give Rutgers breathing room it would ultimately utilize for the remainder of the game.
The Knights would go on to extend their lead out to as many as 15, but the Bears refused to go away. Morgan State chipped away enough to find itself down just 7 points with under eight minutes left.
But this time, it was Freeman's turn.
Following a put-back from Gettys on the following possession, Freeman scored 9 of Rutgers’ next 10 points, including two highlight-reel dunks, to push the Knights’ lead back out to 15 in final minutes to put the game on ice.
“We kind of picked it up in the second half,” Freeman said. “We gotta do better in the first half ... I can’t speak for everyone, but me, I didn’t bring much energy to the team as I should have first half.”
On the flip side of Rutgers’ dominating play inside was the continuation of its cold outside shooting. The Knights entered the night shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from deep, and they failed to reach even of those underwhelming marks against Morgan State.
The Bears’ aggressive 2-3 zone gave Rutgers’ wings fits for most of the night, and even when the Knights were able to work the ball around to an open shooter, it resulted in a miss more times than not.
Rutgers’ three lead guards — sophomore Corey Sanders and juniors Mike Williams and Nigel Johnson — combined to shoot 7-of-32 from the field and 2-for-10 from beyond the arc.
As the Knights work through their elongated cold spell from the outside, Rutgers is going to its nation-leading offensive rebounding presence to remain active, just as it did on Saturday.
“One of these days we’re gonna hit all our threes and it’s gonna be really nice,” Pikiell said. “But when it’s not, you gotta figure out another way. We were getting the ball into the paint and then we were getting it up on the rim and we did a good job of rebounding.”