Rutgers announced on Tuesday that junior forward Mawot Mag is out for the season after being diagnosed with a torn ACL in his right knee. He suffered the injury during Saturday’s win against Michigan State. Mag first announced the news on his Instagram account.
“We’re going to miss Mawot greatly,” head coach Steve Pikiell said in a statement. “He’s a high-energy player, a veteran presence, and the ultimate glue-guy. He’s one of our best team defenders and one of our best offensive rebounders. There’s not a better person in our program and we can’t wait to see him back on the floor in front of Rutgers Nation.”
Mag suffered the non-contact injury with 6:25 remaining in the first half on a baseline drive to the basket. He was helped off the floor and on the bench in street clothes with a brace on. RU was leading 13-12 with a team high 7 points and 3 rebounds at the time of his exit.
There is no way to sugarcoat the news. This is a massive loss for Rutgers. Mag developed into the teams second best defender and was rapidly improving on the offensive end. He stepped into the starting four role this season and became an integral member of this team. Mag’s length, athleticism, and ability to defend multiple positions will be sorely missed. He also brought an edge and toughness to the floor.
In 23 games played this season, Mag is averaging 7.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.0 steal in 24.8 minutes per contest. Overall, he is shooting 50.0% from the floor, 30.0% from three-point range and 74.0% from the foul line.
The 6’8″ versatile forward was becoming a reliable finisher around the rim. Not only was he an effective scorer on putbacks at the rim, but Mag was developing a mid-range game as well. He was shooting 67.6% from the floor (25 of 37) over the last seven games. In the overtime win over Ohio State last month, Mag scored a career high 15 points including a clutch three-pointer along with 8 rebounds.
Through 12 Big Ten games, Mag stacks up very well against the rest of the league in the following advanced statistical categories per KenPom: 7th in true shooting percentage (61.1%), 8th in effective field goal percentage (59.1%), 12th in two-point shooting (57.7%), 15th in free throw rate (34.9%), 19th in block percentage (2.5%), 24th in defensive rebounding rate (16.6%) and 25th in offensive rebounding rate (6.0%). He also has the 4th best defensive player rating in Big Ten action per Bart Torvik.
Caleb McConnell said of Mag’s injury after the MSU win, “That’s really tough, especially what he brings to this team. He brings a lot more. Everyone looks at the stat sheet and everyone looks at (offense). He brings way more (and) absolutely stuffs the stat sheet. He comes through when you need him. Hard worker and he’s kind of our anchor on both ends.”
Mag has dealt with injuries throughout his career. He was limited in his last two years of high school ball and was a major reason why he was under recruited. Last year, he missed two and a half games due to a mouth injury. However, the torn ACL is the most severe injury of his Rutgers career.
After re-entering the AP Top 25 poll at No. 24 this week, Rutgers (16-7; 8-4) will visit No. 18 Indiana (16-7; 7-5) on Tuesday night. It’s a pivotal Big Ten matchup for both teams. RU is alone in second place of the league with the Hoosiers in a six way tie for third place one game behind them. The Scarlet Knights have won eight of the last nine meetings in the series including six in a row.
Head coach Steve Pikiell will have options in replacing Mag in the starting lineup. He could opt to start Aundre Hyatt, who has thrived in the sixth man role and has been playing similar minutes to Mag. Or he could keep Hyatt in his role and start another reserve based on matchups per game.
It remains to be seen how Rutgers replaces Mag moving forward. This will be a process and group effort. It will be hard to fully replace his production and reliability on both ends of the floor. Even so, this team has overcome a lot of adversity already this season. Pikiell talks about overcoming obstacles often. It’s fair to expect that the toughness and togetherness of this team will help them rise above this latest setback, but it won’t be easy losing such a key piece to the puzzle.
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