Game 3 UMass Lowell: Challenges and a Derek grows his dragon wings

bac2therac

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Ah so finally after all the good feels and rah rahs of blowout wins where its always tough to gauge what is going today provided some tests, raised some questions and showed a couple satisfying revelations. No one could expect Rutgers to win by 20 plus every night they play a supposed cupcake (event though Lowell really isnt one) so overall I have no issue with winning by just 73=65. Remember not only is Rutgers playing with Caleb but they were not playing with Paul for about 3/4s of the game so any analysis has to first have a major disclaimer on the top line. Even without those guys, RU is talented enough to handle UMass Lowell and that they did. Yes the score got close late but most of the 2nd half the RU lead was in double digits. Lowell did get to 67-61 very late with the possession but I never sat there and thought that Rutgers was in danger of losing. This isnt your 2012 Rutgers or 2018 Rutgers. There are enough presences on defense and enough options on offense to get it done in crunch time and that RU did....Cliff and Cam/Derek at the free throw line/

Let's start from the beginning. I did not like the way Rutgers started the game. It was clearly the zesty exuberance wasnt there but understandably after just playing 36 hours before and for the third time in 6 days. Left alot of points on the table offensively where at the same time Umass Lowell was equally missing chippies. Seemed like RU was pressing a bit especially Mag and Hyatt and Paul was never able to get RU in the rhythm. It appeared RU was just slowed down and their size was not working to their advantage. Credit the scrappy River Hawks who seemed to frustrate RU even as they struggled to put the ball in the hoop. Then Paul went out with what looked like some real pain. I think RU was up 21-13 but RU seemed to adjust pretty quickly to his absence. Jalen Miller came in for some productive minutes and then Derek Simpson took over the reins and closed out the 1st half on a 11-2 over the final 4 minute. RU seemed to play with a bit more pep in their step without Paul. I think the right move was to get Cliff involved and he seemed to have a pretty dominant stretch there asserting himself with 7 points and 4 rebounds in about a 90 second stretch. The a beautful take by Simpson to the hoop to close the half..more on Derek later. Effectively the game was won here...RU went up 13 at halftime and it gae them a breathing room that they needed given an overall poor shooting night

Second half posed all the great challenges that I think Pikiell wants to see rather than coast to a 30 point win. For starters, Lowell never gave up. Very pesky like gnats, RU would push the lead to 16 at times and then Lowell would chip back down to 9 or 10 and then RU would push it back up and Lowell kept coming. Cam Spencer must drink some kind of elixir at halftime because now its 3 games where he has come out with a strong 2nd half stretch where he scored 7 points in a 3 minute stretch that pushed the RU lead up to 16 at 48-32. The River Hawks would then go on a 7-0 run and all of sudden got it to 9 but RU pushed it up to 14. The back and forth continued. In most of these games you usually have an upperclass guard that you can go to takeover and do something either offensively or defensively to put the game away, RU has Cliff and he was certainly doing his part on both ends but this was where not having Caleb or Paul hurt. A stop or a basket and this game could have been won by 20. A perfect story of offensive futiliy, poor shot selection and some really porous matador defense made this game clioser than it really was. I know some are throwing rose petals at Lowell. Don't get me wrong, it a decent team but they were not that good. I mean they were getting easy entry passes and Cliff had some moments where his defense was just bad on a few possessions. It was sort of perplexing. After that blip RU did get some steals from Cam and Derek and Im going to credit Pike in the timeouts with getting his charges refocused.

Offensively though it was brutal.....RU's last bucket was at 6:15.....RU only had 2 fg in the last 10 minutes of the half..wow. But thats okay....in that same timeframe RU hit on 15-17 free throws, simply an impressive feat. RU buckled down, stopped taking bad shots and drew the fouls, a very smart way to get points. Overall I believe RU was 28-34 absolutely punishing the River Hawks. In an otherwise ugly games its guys stepping up and doing their jobs. Cam/Derek 18-18 are you kidding me?????

Now let us talk Derek Simpson. A dragon got his wings today. We got some leaf out from Derek during the first two games but today his burgeoning dragon wings emerged and he took flight. With soaring speed and ice cold veins, Derek had quite the impressive day as he was forced to pick up the slack for Paul. Derek was brilliant in 34 minutes. 16 points, 10-10 free throws, true the shooting night at 3-11 wasnt all that hot but the ones he made were big spots..right before halftime and another smooth jumper to put RU up 65-53. Derek calmly drained 2 free throws to put RU up 69-61 and that fat lady officialy was singing with 42 seconds. The maturity he showed, the ages he turned just in one day was invaluable today. Ran the show, not perfect, played through mistakes and what it makes it so great is Pikiell seems to have total trust in Derek to do this. The way this game played out was exactly the challenges that RU needed but especially for Derek. Those wings are going to be needed for Big 10 battles head and sooner is always good for later

Cam Spencer was not as explosive tonight and I thought struggled a bit with the quickness of the Lowell guards and did miss some open shots. But how can we even complain, thats how engrained he is as a key cog in this team. Cam had that aforementioned flurry of 2nd half points and was money at the line at 8-8. Great experience in playing through some bad shooting and still contributing to the win

Cliff was a monster. I know that RU had to play him 37 minutes and had to rely on him to win but why not. Sometimes even in these games against lesser you use your best player to win the games and Cliff took the game over at times...22 points, 15 boards, 6-8 ft, 3 steals Remember without Paul, its not as easy to get him the ball and you can see that RU just had 7 assists tonight. 8-17 shooting not all that great but the putbacks made up for it. Again I can even criticize some poor defense for a stretch where he was getting simply beat inside but when push comes to shove Cliff was a man when RU needed it including a late block and defense.(what should have been an over the back call on UMassL) on the last few defensive possessions.

Now to Hyatt and Mag. Not their best days. I love that both especially Hyatt were able to show in the earlier two games that they can step their game up as they are being asked for more. This game not so much. More so Mag who really struggled to get into any flow and then he made a bunch of ill advised 3 point shots in a key stretch that he simply must be smarter with. Mag seems to press too much and his shots rushed and he needs to shake this off. Just 2 points on 1-7 fg and lost some playing time to Woolfolk. Hopefully its a blip, dont need Mag to have to score double digits every night but we need to him be the team player that can contribute. I didnt think we got that tonight. So after his career performance vs Sacred Heart, Aundre had an uneven game tonight. Alot of minutes at 34 so he certainly is being challenged. Just 3-10 shooting, 6 boards, 3 turnovers, 3 steals, 12 points. I know some may think Im being hard on him but there were moments in this game where he fell back on the old Hyatt. To get where RU has to go, Hyatt needs to eliminate these as much as possible. In a game without Paul and Caleb, I would like to see Hyatt be able to be a guy who RU can count if they need a bucket late. I think Mag and Hyatt are taking steps. They are not quite there yet but they still have time. I think a game like tonight raises the issues of the steps they have to take..but again as I said any analysis comes with the headline of no Paul and Caleb tonight.

I love Woofolks game today. No expectations for him this year. He got big minutes...14 and to me hit a key basket at 50-41 putting RU back up by 12. Nice to finally a see a serviceable backup. 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and yes he did foul out but loved that. Got his feet wet playing D and learning the game. Big positive from me tonight and liked that Pike was willing to give him those minutes over others

Reiber got a nice putback in an otherwise unremarkable game. Jalen Miller more minutes tonight steadying the team when Paul went out and if Paul is out we will be seeing alot more of him.


Overall I loved the this game because we got more insight in this teams strengths and weaknesses. Ive been looking for a challenge and even though I didnt think RU was ever in trouble of losing. This game provided just enough challenge and the first response to adversity this season. Paul out and RU responded strong. Cliff did Cliff. 2nd half things became a struggle offensively, but we had a freshmen step up and deliver free throws. RU didnt panic amidst not being able to put the ball in the hoop. I bet Pike probably liked the challenge today and so do I rather than smooth sailing win. You dont have to win pretty all the time....especially with two returning seniors out. There was absolutely nothing wrong in winning even though you did not play your best. Just keep an eye on a couple things cropping up which including scoring droughts, seen them in all 3 games so far so against better competition, they will show up again. RU needs to find a guy eventually who can be the go to guy but in fairness there are more options and when Paul and Caleb returns the wheels will run more smoothly.

3-0 and onto Temple in Connecticut. A much tougher challenge and an opponent brimming with confidence after knocking off Villanova. Hope to have Caleb back but now we worry about Paul so alot of uncertainly headed into the game but I do think a game like today at least shows RU has the ability to get some things done without them and I think Pike is going to be all over the gamefilm to try and clean up some of the errors and put RU in position to win even if shorthanded.
 

Greene Rice FIG

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Who would have thought that it would be Woolfolk as the big playing the 4?

I was really impressed by him today.

Few tidbits…..
1. Coach actually called a play (called wolf) where he’d get a screen so he got the ball in the high post and he got it and gave a nice high low to Cliff for a bucket
2. Coaches were upset at him for not switching of D. Like to see coaches having him switch as he is a big AND they have expectations.
 

RUJMM78

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It was a good win because in previous years the poor shooting would have resulted in a bad loss.On defense my biggest concern is the poor rebounding against smaller teams.On offense its 3 point shooting and the missed layups .In this game it seemed Spencer wasn't getting shots from the corners which kind of explains the scoring droughts.Mulcahy is a point guard while Simpson is more a shooting guard first and passer second.Down the stretch it seemed Mags was taking too many 3 point shots which were missed.The Temple game might be the first time where Rutgers could be trailing at half time especially if Mulcahy and McConnell don't play.The team will need rebounding and 3 point shooting to win.Great start to the season and now the first game away from the RAC.
 
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Joey Bacala

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Great recap Bac but I have to take issue with one piece of your essay: “don’t need Mag to have to score double digits every night.”

Good thing because it won’t happen. Exactly when is that gonna happen? Hyatt at least gives offense that the other team needs to respect. If I was an opposing coach I’d leave Mag wide open on the perimeter and bait him into chucking up shots that are so ugly
They don’t have a chance. His shooting form is pathetic.
 
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Greene Rice FIG

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Great recap Bac but I have to take issue with one piece of your essay: “don’t need Mag to have to score double digits every night.”

Good thing because it won’t happen. Exactly when is that gonna happen? Hyatt at least gives offense that the other team needs to respect. If I was an opposing coach I’d leave Mag wide open on the perimeter and bait him into chucking up shots that are so ugly
They don’t have a chance. His shooting form is pathetic.
Hyatt had many breakdowns defensively. Pike even made a point on radio of saying their 4th scoring option gave us problem. That was the guy Hyatt had on most possessions
 

new jersey1

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Mag is Montez Mathis without the scoring. There, I said it.

Much different players. Mag is a much better rebounder and arguably a better scorer than Mathis. Mathis really did nothing in his final year with RU. He consistently drove into the lane amongst the trees and turned the ball over or missed shots. As stated above, you can’t make judgements after three games. Mag impressed Pike in the off-season and pre-season. He’ll get back into a groove. He’s an important component of this team.
 

Joey Bacala

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Mag is a better scorer than Mathis!?!?!?!?

give me some of whatever you’re smoking.

you are not a true fan by a long stretch.

watch tape of Maryland game when we demolished them - they were highly ranked and we weren’t. Montez smoked them.
 
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Mag and Reibs will provide bench minutes. Both have decent talent, but I don't see either starting unless someone gets injured. Hyatt at this time seems to have the role over Mag. We'll see. No reason to dis Mag; still feel like he has quite a bit to contribute.
 
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new jersey1

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Mag is a better scorer than Mathis!?!?!?!?

give me some of whatever you’re smoking.

you are not a true fan by a long stretch.

watch tape of Maryland game when we demolished them - they were highly ranked and we weren’t. Montez smoked them.

You are citing one game (MD) when Mathis had extra incentive (where he came from) as supporting his offensive game? That’s quite a stretch. There are roughly 30 games in a season. Mathis was terribly inefficient offensively in his last year with RU. As far as your comment about not being a true fan, I have to laugh. You obviously don’t know me.

It sounds like you are describing yourself with your negative Mag comments after three games which RU has won. Mag is finally healthy. Pike sees his play every day and loves his game. I’ll trust Pike over you.
 
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Greene Rice FIG

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Mag and Reibs will provide bench minutes. Both have decent talent, but I don't see either starting unless someone gets injured. Hyatt at this time seems to have the role over Mag. We'll see. No reason to dis Mag; still feel like he has quite a bit to contribute.
I am pretty confident Pike will play Mag more than Hyatt in the 24 regular season games against real competition. Scoring and even rebounding is not enough to get you on the floor for Pikiell.
 
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jonS

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Great recap BAC. For me , the newcomers are most impressive , especially when there was so little fan expectation and hoopla regarding these three players. Simpson's poise , athleticism , and quickness is impessive. Spencer is just a fine all-around player who lets the game come to him--he doesn't force things and his defense and rebounding is a pleasant surprise.. Woolfolk may be the biggest surprise--little if anything was said about him pre-season but he may be more than a spot fill-in for Cliff. He's got decent athleticism and hands and plays defense. UMASS is a decent team --no quit , some quickness at guard and their two bigs gave Rutgers trouble.. Problematic is Rutgers needs someone other than Cliff as a consistent second rebounder and defender. When Cliff contests a shot ,someone needs to help out on the backside. UMASS got too many offensive rebounds and easy baskets.
 

PSAL_Hoops

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I am pretty confident Pike will play Mag more than Hyatt in the 24 regular season games against real competition. Scoring and even rebounding is not enough to get you on the floor for Pikiell.

Let’s see how Hyatt looks on defense at the 4 with Caleb back out there at the 3. It’s early but if everyone is healthy, the signs are pointing to less time for either of them (Hyatt or Mag) at 1-3 which trends Mag’s PT down because he was expected to see time at the 3. He still might get time there, but at the moment it’s not clear he improves the perimeter defense materially over any combination of Paul, Cam, Caleb, Simpson at 1-3 and Miller will get minutes at the 1 and shift others over too with tight ball pressure. Of course, if either Paul or Caleb are limited by their injuries that changes things.
 

Greene Rice FIG

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1. What is Woolfolk's basketball history. He has been well coached. Pretty rare for a freshman big to be so comfortable with the ball in the high post. Maybe playing with Cliff makes it a bit easier.

2. Dragon and wings...that's a bit out there.
 

S.W.A.I.N

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Mag is a better scorer than Mathis!?!?!?!?

give me some of whatever you’re smoking.

you are not a true fan by a long stretch.

watch tape of Maryland game when we demolished them - they were highly ranked and we weren’t. Montez smoked them.
Montez has never averaged double figures in scoring at either RU or SJU. Year 5 and he’s now at 10 this year. Beyond overrated as a scorer - had one good 5 game stretch for us pretty much.
 
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Scangg

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Who would have thought that it would be Woolfolk as the big playing the 4?

I was really impressed by him today.

Few tidbits…..
1. Coach actually called a play (called wolf) where he’d get a screen so he got the ball in the high post and he got it and gave a nice high low to Cliff for a bucket
2. Coaches were upset at him for not switching of D. Like to see coaches having him switch as he is a big AND they have expectations.
Told you from the exhibition game that you were going to be impressed by Woolfolk
 
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wheezer

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Montez has never averaged double figures in scoring at either RU or SJU. Year 5 and he’s now at 10 this year. Beyond overrated as a scorer - had one good 5 game stretch for us pretty much.
He had one stretch where he went aggressively into the lane and hit some baskets
It probably turned out that it was just a good matchups for him rather than a permanent improvement in his overall game
 
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richthedentist

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1. What is Woolfolk's basketball history. He has been well coached. Pretty rare for a freshman big to be so comfortable with the ball in the high post. Maybe playing with Cliff makes it a bit easier.

2. Dragon and wings...that's a bit out there.
Wolfolk has barely been playing basketball as he was a football player up until 2 years ago I believe so he has a pretty high ceiling as has better touch on his shots around the basket than Cliff already
 

Greene Rice FIG

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Wolfolk has barely been playing basketball as he was a football player up until 2 years ago I believe so he has a pretty high ceiling as has better touch on his shots around the basket than Cliff already
I will reserve comment about touch around the basket until I see him play against guys his size or bigger.