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Takeaways from Rutgers’ 68-61 loss to Princeton

The Scarlet Knights fell behind early and were unable to overcome it



Rutgers' Clifford Omoruyi, right, battles Princeton's Caden Pierce for a rebound during the men's college basketball game between Rutgers and Princeton played at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton on Monday, November 6, 2023. Photo credit CHRIS LACHALL/USA TODAY NETWORK ATLANTIC GROUP / USA TODAY NETWORK

Rutgers suffered a 68-61 opening night loss to Princeton at Cure Arena in Trenton on Monday. It was a frustrating performance in which the Scarlet Knights were outmatched by the veteran Tigers.

“We need to have our guys more ready out the gate. It was 12-to-4 to start the game. We can’t start off a game like that,” Pikiell explained. “I felt like our team was fighting though. We fought back. We were a couple of possessions short. We had to finish close to the basket. I think we missed 17 layups, and that’s not a recipe to win a game. Princeton did a great job. I want to thank our fans who came down. I appreciated that very much. Princeton did better than us today, and as a coach I have to do a much better job at getting us started off the gate. They did a couple of flare actions that we weren’t as prepared for. We probably could have used one more veteran defender against a good basketball team like that, but they’re an NCAA tournament team without a doubt in my mind. They had a great year last year, so congratulations to Princeton.”

It was just one game but Rutgers can learn a lot from what happened.

The bench outplayed the Rutgers starters and it wasn’t particularly close either. When RU was at its best on Monday night, it was due to inspired play from its reserves.

Antwone Woolfolk showcased his athleticism yet was under control. He had a dunk after a steal and took it the distance himself followed by slamming home an alley-oop from Cliff Omoruyi. Oskar Palmquist was 2 of 4 from deep, had a nice baseline layup in transition and had a team high +11. Austin Williams showed his veteran chops late in by hitting a monster three to get Rutgers back in the game followed by forcing a turnover from Matt Allocco.  Jamichael Davis got a lot of run and gave Rutgers lots of energy. On the flip side, Aundre Hyatt and Derek Simpson struggled mightily, combining to shoot 0-9 from the floor. They were not on the floor that much down the stretch. Gavin Griffiths was on the bench a lot as well in the second half.

Too many points were left on the table in the first half as RU was just 5 of 13 on layups. They were better in the second half, making 8 of 14 but they were unable to gain momentum before the half and it cost them. Several times when they got back into it, they lost focus and allowed an easy basket or committed a turnover. There were different lineups used throughout the game and some worked, some didn’t.

Matt Allocco was the best player on the court and controlled the game at time for Princeton. He scored a game high 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting.

This looked like a team that had six players from its nine man rotation back from a Sweet 16. Despite losing its best two players, Princeton played their game well.

Rutgers also had just two points in transition following the first half in which they held a 9=0 advantage. RU was also -4 on the boards in this game.

It’s a tough opening night loss, but Princeton is a good team. Rutgers will learn a lot from this game and it will help them. The starters have to be better and this team needs to discover what it’s identity is going to be by.

Listen and watch to this episode below for more on takeaways from opening night.



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  1. BataliBoli98

    November 7, 2023 at 7:51 pm

    As always, THANK YOU Aaron for making my commute much more manageable. Your candid and highly informed reactions are the perfect elixir. Here is what jumped out to me:
    1) I couldn’t agree more about Pikiell’s use of minutes. Cliff is undoubtedly RU’s best player, has a significant physical advantage in this game, is not in foul trouble but only gets 27 minutes.
    2) That said, Cliff needed to dominate the glass in this one and he didn’t. I feel that too often he relies purely on his athleticism as opposed to positioning when going after rebounds.
    3) Davis has TONS of potential and is very quick with the ball. His drive, miss, but then follow up was a perfect example of his skill set. However, at this point, unless he is WIDE open or the shot clock is about to expire he should be passing on 3s.
    4) RU really missed Mag in this game. As it was, the press was a complete non-factor and his grit was missed on so many of the loose balls that Princeton gobbled up.
    5) Hyatt and Simpson looked like two guys who transferred in yesterday and didn’t know the offense. They had very odd games. The analyst said that Hyatt must become a more consistent veteran presence for RU and he is spot on.
    6) I am concerned about RU’s guards being able to defend in conference play. Except for A. Williams, who was matched up with Allocco way too late, they got pushed around all night. When they had Fernandes, Davis, and Palmquist and/or Griffiths together on the floor, I know that Palm is a forward, they were all getting bullied in their matchup.
    7) I was glad to see Wolf and Cliff playing alongside each other and wanted to see it more.
    8) The sky is not falling and this team will be fine but they are going to have to be far more effective at finishing at the rim. It was odd that they struggled so much in this area against a team that really had no one to protect the basket.
    9) I thought that when RU cut it to 57-55 that they had all of the momentum and that they were going to overtake Princeton. Then Lee literally was a one man press break. How he got that layup up over Cliff is beyond me.

    • Aaron Breitman

      November 8, 2023 at 9:52 am

      Thank you for listening and appreciate the kind words. Good comments. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

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