Rutgers has some of its best basketball size in recent seasons. The next test comes in getting Big Ten production out of Steve Pikiell's crop of big men.
Pikiell's squad remains one of the top rebounding teams in the nation. Offensively, however, Rutgers forwards represent just 18.3 points per game during the three-game skid.
“It's not just one guy to fix our offense, it's a little bit of everything,” Pikiell said on the eve of Rutgers at Michigan State. “We have a lot of guys that need to score. … We have to get the ball inside. I think you're seeing the size difference, too, with some of these teams now that we're playing. We've got to stop turning the ball over because that will equal more shot attempts.”
Sophomore Ibrahima Diallo saw his most extensive action against Seton Hall with more minutes in the first two Big Ten games. The 6-foot-11 big man is just 1-for-6 from the floor in six games.
“He's doing a good job,” Pikiell said. “He's gotten better in practice. He's probably one of our stronger defenders. We just really need some points, too, out of that position. We're trying to get him to focus more on scoring in practice, hopefully translate that into a game. With his athleticism, he's strong. Some of these games, there's good matchups for him. He's a little more effective in those games. He'll play game by game according to the personnel the other team has on the floor.
Sophomore guard Corey Sanders came off the bench against Wisconsin and Penn State with a 19 percent shooting clip against his first two Big Ten foes of the year.
“We're spending a lot of time with him in the gym,” Pikiell said. “His shot selection has to improve. I really think when his defense is where it needs to be, it helps him get some easier attempts at the basket. In the last couple of games, he didn't generate any offense from his defense. That's an important part of this thing, too. He's got to spend more time in the gym and he has been.”
Rutgers (11-4, 0-2) arrived in East Lansing, Mich., Tuesday night with a tipoff time of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against Michigan State (10-5, 2-0).
“They're playing with a lot more swagger,” Pikiell said. “They really move the ball up the floor and they get a lot of action from that young class. They just get better and better and I think they've kind of taken those lumps a little bit early with being a young program. This is a real test for us.”null