Rutgers Basketball Practice Report: Pork Roll vs. Taylor Ham

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- While the focus remains on the court for coach Steve Pikiell, a long-standing New Jersey debate comes to a head between fans with a special Saturday promotion at the RAC.

The Headline – After Issa Thiam hit a freshman wall earlier this season, the sharp-shooting wing has new-found confidence.

Thiam received a massive uptick in minutes, and multiple starts, during recent games. It starts with an improvement in practice.

“I think he got through that freshman barrier,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “He's starting to play and his defense has improved. He's rebounding. He's doing more than just shoot the ball.”

Thiam is a lights-out shooter in practice, but has been inconsistent as a developing freshman in games.

“This season, I feel like I'm more confident because I'm having a lot of fun,” Thiam said. “I'm more confident now. I'm back doing everything I can do. I have more confidence.”

Thiam is second among guards with a 31-percent clip from long range with 24 makes on the season.

“At the beginning, it was hard,” Thiam said. “It's my first year playing college basketball. Now I know. … My teammates help me since I've come here. Corey [Sanders] and Nigel [Johnson] help me with everything. They're confident in my shooting.”

Worth Noting – The pork roll vs. Taylor ham battle rages tomorrow afternoon at the RAC with serious repercussions on the line.

The most polarizing promotion in Rutgers basketball history takes place when fans must choose the correct name for New Jersey's favorite breakfast sandwich. With a Twitter poll as the arbiter and free t-shirts for both sides of the argument, Pikiell was not ready to take sides.

“I got Minnesota on my mind,” he said. “It depends on who I'm recruiting. We'll leave it at that.”

The event is the brainchild of assistant director of marketing and promotions Mike Greengarten, who came up with the idea after a discussion at a town hall with Chris Ash and Pat Hobbs.

“Not since I've been here,” Greengarten said of the amount of buzz around the event compared to others. “I've come to games since I was a kid, and I can't remember something like this. I have to give a lot of credit to the graphic design team, Kaila Pettis, she's been great. She did all of the designs, all of the t-shirts. We worked together as a team. That's what this is all about.”

Where does Greengarten side in the great debate?

“Taylor ham, North Jersey all day,” he said.

Quote of the Day – “With his numbers, forget about the two points. We are up on wins. We've almost doubled our win total. It's about winning. That's a stat that he's improved on a lot. His defense, it's tiring playing the defense that we ask him to do. He has to guard the best player every night on the other team. He's doing a real good job on that. There's no stat that keeps producing what you do on the defensive end. His numbers on that end would be off the charts compared to last year.” – Pikiell on Corey Sanders.

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