Sam Hellman / Scarlet Report

Basketball Practice Report: Health & Response After Iowa

Rutgers basketball coach Steve Pikiell offers injury updates for a pair of key players and explains the mindset after an uncharacteristic showing at home in the loss to Iowa. The Scarlet Knights return to action tomorrow at Penn State.

The Headline – Home losses to Penn State and Iowa are two primary examples of what Steve Pikiell does not want his team to be. After a day on the recruiting trail, Pikiell is back in the gym with his players with a Penn State road trip up next.

Whatever went wrong in the pair of January home losses, that is not the Rutgers Pikiell expects to see in State College.

“I want to change a lot,” Pikiell said. “That wasn't who we are in the last game. That has to change. We've played hard in every game this year, no matter what the score was and no matter who the opponent was. That wasn't us. We've got to change that. We've got to play really well.”

Still winless in road Big Ten action, look for a more focused team in the paint after Rutgers shot 15 percent from three in its 60-47 loss to Penn State on New Year's Day.

“I'm looking to change the results, first and foremost,” Pikiell said. “We don't want to shoot threes. That's not one of our strengths. Even though our guys tend to want to shoot threes, that's what's available to us. That's the strategy of the other teams. We're trying not to play into the other team's strategy. We've kept the ball inside more but now we have to go from getting the ball inside to making free throws. We've stopped taking threes, limited taking threes and we're trying to throw the ball inside. The next step is take advantage at the free-throw line.”

Potentially down Nigel Johnson and Jonathan Laurent, freshman Issa Thiam's role increases as both a wing and possible ball handler.

Issa always works hard,” Pikiell said. “I think some of his battles this year were just freshman battles. Size is always an issue in a real physical, physical league. I think he's getting more comfortable. Guys got him the ball a couple of times when he was open, which isn't always the case. Guys are becoming a little more aware that he's on the floor to shoot the ball. If you give him the ball, he can make some shots.”

Worth Noting – Johnson and Laurent are both day-to-day with lower-body injuries.

Those two guys I guess are day to day,” he said. “They're supposed to be in for treatment today. Jonathan's a sprained ankle, so hopefully we'll have him back soon. Nigel is, I don't know, a bruise I guess is what they're calling it. I don't know what that means.”

Pikiell referred to both as the normal “wear and tear” against Big Ten teams.

Quote of the Day – “They took their first swing at us and we didn't get off the mat. That's not a characteristic of this year's team. We'll get back to who we are and that's tough, overachieving, scrappy, all of those other kinds of things that you can do in the course of a game.” – Pikiell on Iowa blowout.

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