Rutgers prepares to face No. 9 Maryland on road
The Rutgers men’s basketball team took on Michigan this past weekend in a matchup in “the world’s most famous arena,” Madison Square Garden.
The Scarlet Knights (16-6, 7-4) lost in a close matchup with the Wolverines (13-8, 4-6) in New York City. Rutgers shattered a couple of records despite the loss. These included recording 51 rebounds and the team's 83 field goal attempts, the most ever in a Big Ten regulation game.
Three Knights scored in double digits despite the loss: graduate student forward Akwasi Yeboah, junior guard Jacob Young and sophomore guard Caleb McConnell. Sophomore guard Montez Mathis (17) also once again scored in double digits, the seventh time this season. Head coach Steve Pikiell shared his thoughts on Mathis.
"We're a very balanced team. Montez got us off to a good start. And I loved his defense, it was really spot on," Pikiell said. "These are all challenges for this young team to fight through. Now we have to prepare for a ranked team on the road. We don't have a lot of time to discuss this, just moving forward."
Rutgers had a hard time containing Michigan’s Brandon Johns Jr., who had a career night, putting up 20 points in the Garden. He also connected on 4 three-pointers.
The Knights also struggled covering the pick and roll for the majority of the game. Pikiell expressed his concern about the performance postgame.
"We have to do a better job. We made a few adjustments. But, (Jon) Teske's 7 foot and 1 inch. He's good. And they have a senior point guard that leads the nation in assists. They have some elite players," Pikiell said. "Obviously, our pick-and-roll defense wasn't elite and it needed to be. But we still had chances to win. And that's a good sign. We're one of the youngest teams in the league. We're going to have games like that."
Going forward, Rutgers looks to put the loss behind it as the team travels south to take on Maryland. The No. 9 Terrapins (17-4, 7-3) have been one of the more consistently better teams in the country. Struggling on the road and in neutral territories, the Knights sit at 1-6 under those circumstances.
Rutgers is aware of having the third-hardest remaining schedule in the country, and this is the first hurdle the team will have to overcome before looking at a challenging set of games ahead.
Maryland beat No. 18 Iowa by 10 this past weekend. The Terrapins held Luka Garza to four rebounds, who’s season average for rebounds is 10. Players that stood out in Maryland's win were Anthony Cowan (31 points) and Jalen Smith (18 points).
Facing a top-10 team, it is imperative that the Knights use their known chaotic defense to contain the Terrapins in this upcoming matchup.
Some Rutgers players to keep an eye on in this upcoming matchup are Mathis and junior guard Geo Baker. Mathis is looking to keep his hot streak going, as he has scored in double digits in 3 of his last 5 games.
Baker has scored in double digits only once in his last seven contests. Expect Baker, the team’s co-captain, to take advantage of the big stage against this Maryland team. He looks to break out of his scoring cold spell tonight at 7 p.m. in College Park, Maryland.
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