10 THOUGHTS ON THE MIAMI REMATCH
Rutgers extended its Big East winning streak to four games with a gritty 72-70 win against Miami at the RAC. The game was a medieval melee, fought without conventional weapons. No long range bombs. No blitzkrieg fast breaks. Just a whole lot of chaos. The game was an ugly slogging match in which Rutgers out-gritted a guily Hurricane team. Rutgers started the game typically flat against a less heralded opponent but worked methodically to remedy its deficiencies. Here are ten thoughts on the rematch with Miami.
1. Backcourt Battle. I thought that the backcourt battle was the biggest key to the game. Darius Rice couldn't carry the ‘Canes by himself. The Scarlet Knight backcourt had to limit Miami guards Robert Hite and Guillermo Diaz to 20 points. Such a defensive effort would enable the Scarlet Knight backcourt to outscore their Hurricane counterparts sufficiently to counterbalance Rice. Rutgers Head Coach Gary Waters couldn't count on another big game from Quincy Douby, who has been prone to inconsistency. The plan went to pieces with the opening tipoff. Miami opened a 21-9 lead at 13:00 as Diaz and Hite combined for 10 points. The two scored 16 points by halftime (6 of 11 FGAs, 2 of 4 3PAs, and 2 of 2 FTAs). Aggravating this offensive outburst, the Hurricane backcourt outscored their Scarlet Knight counterparts 18-13. Rutgers was fortunate to trail only 31-29 at halftime. Diaz and Hite combined for 14 points in the second half (4 of 8 FGAs, 2 of 5 3PAs, and 4 of 4 FTAs). The Scarlet Knight backcourt outscored their opposition 20-14, however. Rutgers somehow managed to send the game into overtime although Miami's backcourt outplayed the Scarlet Knights.
2. Turnovers. Ricky Shields committed a TO on Rutgers' opening possession, setting the tone for the first half. Rutgers committed five TOs in the opening six minutes and ten in the first half. The TO margin was 5-0 when Waters called a timeout at 13:30 with Rutgers trailing 19-9. Afterwards, Rutgers increased its defensive pressure and started forcing Miami TOs. Rutgers narrowed the TO margin to 10-7 at halftime. Rutgers forced five TOs in the opening three minutes of the second half to fuel a 10-4 run and a 39-35 lead. Rutgers committed four TOs during a 14-0 Hurricane run but nonetheless won the TO battle in the second half, 9-5. After spotting Miami five TOs to open the game, Rutgers evened the TO margin in the second half.
3. Rebounding. Miami's superior aggressiveness also manifested itself on the backboards. Miami outrebounded Rutgers 8-5 on the offensive boards in the first half. The offensive rebounding margin – plus the TO margin – gave the Hurricanes six extra shots and allowed the Hurricanes, though shooting poorer than Rutgers, to achieve a 31-29 halftime lead. Rutgers evened the rebounding battle with an 8-6 second half offensive rebounding margin. Rutgers attempted six extra shots in the second half and, though now shooting poorer than Miami, was able to catch the Hurricanes at the buzzer.
4. Free Throws. Rutgers attacked the basket more aggressively than did Miami and thus drew more fouls and FTAs. Though Miami outshot Rutgers 33-23 (FGAs) in the first half, Rutgers held a 13-2 advantage in FTAs. Rutgers was unable to capitalize upon this edge, though, making only 7 of 13. Rutgers held an 8-4 edge in FTAs in the second half and made 7 of 8, enabling Rutgers to catch a better-shooting Miami team and force overtime. Rutgers ended a 14-0 Miami run with six FTs from unlikely sources – Calvin Wooten (first FTAs of the season), Sean Axani (54% on FTAs), and Adrian Hill (56% on FTAs). The likelihood of these three hitting six straight was about 5% -- talk about clutch shooting. Rutgers iced the game in OT, hitting 6 of 8 FTAs.
5. Defense. The Scarlet Knights came out flat, apparently taking yet another opponent for granted and looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with Seton Hall. This team lacks the talent to cruise to a victory. It must scrap and claw its way past its opponents every opponent. The Knights weren't prepared to do so against Miami and paid dearly early in the game. Miami made 9 of 16 FGAs to open a 21-9 lead in the first seven minutes. Offensive rebounds and forced TOs gave Miami an advantage in FGAs that the Hurricanes leveraged into a big lead with accurate shooting. Waters called a timeout and inserted Douby and Hill, which provided a defensive spark. Rutgers increased its defensive intensity and held Miami to 4 of 17 FGAs over the final 13 minutes. Rutgers continued to frustrate Miami defensively in the opening six minutes of the second half, holding Miami to 1 of 5 FGAs. With Lamizana on the bench with foul trouble, Miami made 6 of 9 FGA to reel off a 14-0 run that nearly blew open the game. But the Scarlet Knights regained their composure and reapplied the defensive clamps, limiting Miami to 4 of 13 FGAs over the final 10 minutes, including zero FGs in the final 3 minutes of regulation. Rutgers allowed Miami to make only 2 of 7 FGAs in OT.
6. Herve Lamizana. Herve had a magnificent first half and a frustrating second half. Herve scored 10 points (4 of 7 FGAs, 1 of 3 3PAs, and 1 of 3 FTAs) and grabbed 8 rebounds in the first stanza. Herve could have accomplished more but, with 1:30 remaining, he had a dunk negated by an awful charging foul (his second) that instead should have resulted in bonus FTA. The referees whistled Herve for foul #3 on a curious block-charge call that the referees couldn't resolve. In an exhibit of total incompetence, the refs called a double foul and Herve went to the bench with his third foul at 16:00 of the second half. Miami embarked upon a 9-0 run with Herve on the bench. Herve returned at 12:00 but promptly earned his fourth foul trying to score off an offensive rebound. Herve sat for about ten minutes. Her returned in the final two minutes and recorded two defensive rebounds, two blocked shots, and an assist.
7. Ricky Shields. Shields had another performance that reminds one of Jeff Greer. He was the leading scorer for Rutgers was but invisible for long stretches of the game. He scored his 7 first half points in the final seven minutes. But he also missed two FTAs. He took only five shots in the first half and one was an ill-advised 3PA. He scored 9 points in the second half – all on 3PAs – on 7 FGAs. He closed out Rutgers 9-0 run with a 3-ball that narrowed the deficit to one point. Moments later, he tied the game with another 3-ball. His only other contributions of the final 10 minutes of regulation and OT were grabbing one defensive rebound and making 3 of 4 FTAs (in the last 30 seconds of OT).
8. Role Players. The Scarlet Knight role players were the difference in the game. Rice/Hite/Diaz combined for 56 points. Herve/Shields/Douby combined for 40 points. The role players made up that 16-point differential. Axani and Hill combined for 12 points on very economical shooting. They also made 4 out 6 FTs. And all four after Ax missed his first two. Wiggan/Webb/Wooten added another 16 points. Those 28 points swamped the contribution from Miami's role players and offset Rice/Hite/ Diaz. These guys don't get credit for the little things they do. Wooten stopped the bleeding with two clutch FTs. Hill scored off of his own steal and two offensive rebounds. Axani nearly had a double-double (8 points, 10 rebounds) and added three assists, a steal, and a block.
9. Defense on Rice. Another key to the game was making Rice work for his points. I was convinced that Rice would get his points. But Rutgers had to make sure that he worked hard for those points. If Rice was going to score 20 points, he had to take 20 shots to do so. Rice scored six points in the opening three minutes on 3 of 3 FGAs. It was an inauspicious start after Rice ravaged Rutgers for 20 second half points in their first meeting. Throughout the remainder of the first half, Rutgers held Rice to one basket in 9 FGAs. Rice made 3 of 7 FGAs in the second half. Rice answered Rutgers' 9-0 run with three consecutive baskets. However, that was his second half scoring production. Rice missed all three FGAs in OT but managed two FTs. For the game, Rice shot 7 of 22 FGAs, 1 of 10 3PAs, and 2 of 2 FTAs. He kept the ball out of the hands of Hite and Diaz, who were scoring much more efficiently. After a slow start, Rutgers defended Rice almost perfectly.
10. End-Game. Rutgers escaped with an OT win despite sloppy play in both end-game situations. With 1:30 remaining in regulation, Quincy Douby fouled Hite (85% FT) at halfcourt and gave Miami two easy FTs. Lamizana erased two Miami shots moments later to keep Rutgers within striking distance and Rutgers was able to force OT. Douby fouled Rice in the opening minute of OT and gave Miami another two easy FTs. Rutgers was able to open a six point lead with 2:00 remaining in OT. But Axani fouled Hite on a defensive rebound, allowing Miami to score with no time off the clock. Douby again fouled Hite at midcourt on the next possession – two more Hurricane FTs. Still leading by six with 0:30 remaining, Rutgers gave Miami three possessions, allowing two offensive rebounds, yielding a 3-ball off an inbounds play, and committing a TO.
The win puts Rutgers over 0.500 in league play for the first time in two years. By taking care of business at home, Rutgers can now look ahead to an opportunity to further its post-season ambitions on Saturday against Seton Hall at the Meadowlands.
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