Rutgers 3-point shooting will be key this season
For the fourth straight season and the third under head coach Steve Pikiell, the Rutgers men’s basketball team started its season 2-0 after two blowout wins over Fairleigh Dickinson and Drexel.
The Scarlet Knights have opened the season shooting the ball extremely efficiently, going 53 percent from the field and a whopping 56.5 percent from 3-point range.
The team has gotten good performances from both returning players and newcomers, as Rutgers has outscored its two opponents by a combined score of 185-121. The Knights reached 90 points in both games and held the visiting Knights and Dragons to a combined 39 percent shooting from the field.
Here are three takeaways from Rutgers’ season opening weekend at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC):
Junior forwards Issa Thiam and Eugene Omoruyi produced similar numbers last season, with Thiam contributing 7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.6 assists per game and Omoruyi putting up 7.9 points, five rebounds and one assist per game. Thiam started every game and was a potential threat from the 3-point line, while Omoruyi was more of a defensive anchor.
Thiam has picked up where he left off from last season, and then some, shooting extremely well from the field at 61.5 percent, including a 70-percent clip from 3 (7-10). Omoruyi has joined him in both games in the starting lineup and seems to have put a lot of work into his 3-point shot. He has gone 6-7 from 3 after going 0-5 last season on his attempts from deep. Omoruyi also is currently the team leader in average points with 19 after a 24 point game against Drexel on Sunday.
A trio of freshman have made the most the of their minutes this early in the season and have even stolen the show at points. Guard Ron Harper Jr.’s alley oop dunk at the apex of the Knights’ second half blowout of Fairleigh Dickinson had the RAC at the loudest it’s been since the season began.
Both Harper Jr. and fellow guard Montez Mathis are averaging 10 points per game, with Harper Jr. shooting 56 percent from the field, and Mathis struggling a bit with his shot early at 31.6 percent.
Forward Myles Johnson has been big on the defensive side of the ball as the backup to graduate student center Shaquille Doorson. He’s averaging six rebounds per game and also leads the team in blocked shots with three in each game. Johnson is sure to be a shoe-in for the starting spot once Doorson leaves after this season.
What a difference a year makes
Shooting from beyond the arc was a touchy subject for Rutgers last season, who shot a paltry 29 percent from the 3-point line. Pikiell mentioned after the game against the visiting Knights that he was glad not to have to hear any complaints from fans about the 3-point shooting for a day or two. The fans had a point, since the Knights took exactly 500 3-pointers last season, but only hit 145 of them. But things have been much different this year.
Rutgers is 26 of 46 from the 3-point line so far this season (56.5 percent), in large part to the aforementioned Omoruyi and Thiam, and sophomore guards Peter Kiss (4-5) and Geo Baker (4-8). The Knights are shockingly shooting the ball better from the outside than the inside and hit 14 3-pointers against the Dragons — the second most in a game in program history.
Despite this production surely to decline as the season goes on and the Big Ten schedule begins, 3-point shooting was Rutgers’ achilles heel last season. If the team can at the very least stay respectable from beyond the arc and use it to its benefit, the Knights have the potential to have a nice season.