Defensive Alteration Needed vs. Louisville

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers hosts No. 16 Louisville tonight (9 o'clock) at the Rutgers Athletic Center, but it will be a slightly different looking Scarlet Knights team. Because of the Cardinals' ability and willingness to shoot the 3-pointer, Rutgers may have to alter its defensive approach.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – No team in the Big East comes close to matching watch Louisville attempts from 3-point range, or makes from 3-point range.

Factor in Cardinals point guard Peyton Siva, and it will force Rutgers to alter its defensive philosophy tonight (9 o'clock) at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Because Siva is so good at penetrating a defense, and because the Cardinals live off the deep shot, the Scarlet Knights (13-13, 4-10 Big East) are being forced to adjust their defensive principles against the 16th-ranked Cardinals.

"(Siva) is the absolute perfect guard for how Louisville's system is played because there is no better guard, maybe, in the country at getting into the paint," Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. "If you help and have one step out of position, those guys are shooting an open three.

"We can't help as much. Any time you do have to change your defensive formula, there's always concern. But we had good days of preparation on it, so we'll see."

The Scarlet Knights need the win to have a realistic chance of heading to the NIT, but will need to contain one of the top outside shooting teams in the league.

Louisville ranks fourth in 3-point shooting (36.9 percent), but take dramatically more shots from beyond the arc. The Cardinals have attempted 645 3-point shots, while Providence is next at 559. Every other Big East program has taken at least 100 less 3-pointers this season.

Also, Louisville's 238 makes are, by far, the most in the league. Georgetown is second at 197.

"We need to have a lot of pressure on the ball and really close out and force them into driving," Rutgers senior guard Mike Coburn said. "They're really good 3-point shooters, and if you force them to be drivers, it will work to our advantage."

Louisville does it with tremendous balance as well.

Preston Knowledge is the Cardinals leading scorer (14.5 ppg) and is shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range, but Kyle Kuric (45.8 percent) is a very good long-range shooter.

Compounding the issue is Rutgers' difficulty in defending the 3-pointer. The Scarlet Knights are 13th in the 16-team league. Opponents are shooting 34.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Although Siva doesn't shoot well from distance (28.6 percent from 3-point range), he still runs the offense well. He is averaging 10.6 points and 5.1 assists per game.

"He's really good, and if you give him space, he's Kemba Walker-like as far as being able to get anywhere on the floor with the basketball," Rice said. "You have to game plan to send two people at him every time he has the ball. He may not score it as well as some of the guards, but his ability to get people open, and his ability to get to the rim is like no other guard in the country."

Stopping dribble penetration has not been a strength for the Scarlet Knights, and one of the reasons for the discrepancy in free throw shooting much of the league season, but there is a way to combat it.

"We're not going to pick him up as high to give him a running start," Rice said. "We're going to do a couple of things …he's so good off the ball screen we'll do a couple of different things to defend him and give him different looks and hopefully slow him down."


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