Rutgers prepares for Stephen F. Austin in Wednesday night affair
After winning its first three games, the Rutgers men’s basketball team lost its first game of the season against St. Bonaventure.
The Bonnies (1-3) had control of the game for the majority of the contest. Now that the Scarlet Knights (3-1) got their first loss out of the way, they will look to bounce back versus Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday night. For the first time in both of the schools' histories, they will be facing each other.
The Lumberjacks (4-0) are looking to extend their win streak to five straight games as they come to the east coast to take on Rutgers. Based on the last game, head coach Steve Pikiell and company have shown how their team can handle adversity.
Even though the Knights ultimately took the loss against St. Bonaventure, Rutgers was down by as many as 19 points before coming back to within 6 toward the end of the game. Even though the Knights' backs were up against the wall, the squad showed true resilience, regardless of the outcome.
Now that the pressure of that first loss is out of the way, expect Rutgers to step up and show the true spirit of the program against Stephen F. Austin.
Going into this game, under Pikiell, the team has a record of 27-4 while facing non-conference teams at home. The Knights' true strength is playing in front of their home crowd, and statistics show it. Regardless of playing at home or not, the Lumberjacks will be a tough matchup for Rutgers, nonetheless.
Being a well-run defensive team, Stephen F. Austin averages approximately 28 turnovers forced per game. Leading the Lumberjacks in steals this season is senior guard John Comeaux, who is ranked ninth nationally with 12 steals on the year.
While dominating on the defensive end, the offensive side of the floor has been efficient as well. Senior guard Kevon Harris leads Stephen F. Austin in scoring with 19.8 points per game.
Even though the Lumberjacks are a prominent defensive team, the Knights have been playing proficiently on the defensive/rebounding side of things as well. Rutgers leads the Big Ten in blocks per game (6.5) and is third in rebounds per game (42.0).
Additionally, junior guard Geo Baker is tied sixth nationally among guards for blocks per game (1.75). Also, sophomore guard Montez Mathis is third in the Big Ten for steals per game (2.0) and fellow sophomore guard Ron Harper Jr. ranks eighth (1.8).
Facing a well-performing team like Stephen F. Austin, it's worth noting that Sports Illustrated named the Knights “the most improved team of the 2018-2019 season.” This game can be a test for Rutgers before facing legit powerhouses within the Big Ten next month.
Having one of their deepest rosters in recent memory, the Knights have been playing 11 players every game. Depth is a problem that many teams wish they had.
Pikiell is looking to turn around his team's reputation this season. In doing that, his goal will be to change the culture of Rutgers basketball. The team has entered the Fall 2019 semester with a 3.06 cumulative GPA and the team has maintained a 100% team participation showing in Leadership Development and Strategic Partnerships community service initiatives for the past three seasons.
Using his philosophy, the squad has looked great both physically and spiritually.
The Knights look to give the Lumberjacks their first loss of the season on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).
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