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Rutgers looks to slow down Iowa



Photo credit Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers men’s basketball will host Iowa on Sunday at noon at the RAC. The game will air live on the Big Ten Network. The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series 9-3. Last season, Rutgers defeated Iowa 48-46 at the RAC before losing 84-74 in the Big Ten Quarterfinals. The Hawkeyes just earned a big win on Thursday night with a 91-89 come from behind victory over Indiana. They also own one of the worst losses of any high major this season with a 92-83 defeat to Eastern Illinois (KenPom No. 350).

As usual, Iowa can score as they are averaging 81.7 points per game. They are No. 16 in offensive efficiency nationally and have six players averaging at least 8 points per game. Kris Murray leads the Hawkeyes with 21.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. He’s shooting 51.5% from the floor and 38.2% from three-point range. Third leading scorer Patrick McCaffery will not play after taking an indefinite leave from the program last week due anxiety.

As a team, Iowa averages the 9th shortest possessions nationally at 15.2 seconds. They’re No. 5 in offensive turnover rate at just 13.9%. They get to the free throw line as 35.5% of all their shots come from the charity stripe (No. 65). They are No. 79 in offensive rebounding rate at 32.3% and No. 98 in shooting 52.2% from two-point range.

Defensively, they only No. 126 in defensive efficiency but they limit opponents to 20.1% in regard to free throws taken vs. field goals attempted.

This is a huge game for both teams. Iowa is just 9-6 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play. They need to build on momentum from the win over Indiana on Thursday. As for Rutgers, they’ve won five straight including over No. 1 Purdue on the road. They also wants to continue to build momentum for the season and every win matters.

Rutgers needs to run the offense through Paul Mulcahy. His roommate, Cam Spencer, needs to be a priority on Sunday. He’s the best shooter in Scarlet and RU will likely need to make a few from behind the arc against such a high scoring team. Also finding ways to get Cliff Omoruyi more involved in the offense. If this game reaches the 70s scoring wise, Rutgers will need balanced scoring and strong bench play once again. Aundre Hyatt and Derek Simpson have both provided consistent production off the bench.

With Iowa wanting to play at such a fast pace, the Scarlet Knights need to play elite defense and use ball pressure to force mistakes. Rutgers has to play with energy and get back on defense in transition.

I expect Pikiell to scheme for ways to stop leading scorer Kris Murray. As usual, it will likely involve multiple players. In addition, full court pressure has made Rutgers even more dangerous on the defensive end. Iowa doesn’t typically turn it over, but they also are unlikely to match the physicality of RU.

The Scarlet Knights have a big opportunity against Iowa. A Sunday noon start will test their maturity and preparedness. Defending the perimeter is always a priority against Iowa, even though they’re only shooting 32.0% from three-point range.

Rebounding, limiting turnovers, defending without fouling and making their free throws will be important as always. At the end of the day, it will come down to their ability to shut down the Iowa offense with relentless defensive pressure. This team’s identity has shown through and their toughness will need to rise to the surface once again.

The 1983 team will be welcomed and honored during a halftime ceremony on Sunday.

For musical choice I selected “Yet Again” by Grizzly Bear. This has been quite the series in recent years between Rutgers and Iowa. Both teams have won big games on the road. It’s always been a massive style contrast which makes for entertaining games. Sunday’s matchup is critical for both sides. It’s another opportunity for RU to take a step forward and solidify their position at the top of the Big Ten standings. Closing the first week of 2023 with 3-0 record in a seven day period would be something. This will be another tough game and you don’t want to let Iowa get into rhythm from behind the arc. There are no days off and if Rutgers can bring the defensive pressure and play together as they have, it should be another hard earned victory.

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