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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