10 THOUGHTS ON THE VIRIGINIA TECH GAME
Rutgers (14-8, 6-6) demolished Virginia Tech (10-11, 3-7) Sunday afternoon at the RAC in one of the most overwhelming displays by a Scarlet Knights team against a legitimate opponent in many years. The game was decided in the opening minutes as the Scarlet Knights blitzed the Hokies with an incredible 30-0 run over a 10-minute span. The rest of the game was garbage time. Here are ten thoughts on the Virginia Tech game.
1. Virginia Tech on the Road. Has Virginia Tech won a Big East road game since joining the conference four years ago? I'm not sure. If they have, you could count the road wins on one hand. Their road performance has been worse than has been that of Rutgers during the same timeframe. Which explains why Tech has yet to participate in the Big East Tournament. So, the win should be put in perspective. Rutgers beat a bad road team. At home. Where Rutgers plays well. The game has no long-term consequences.
2. Mental Focus. Conversely, Rutgers broke a trend with this performance. For once, the Scarlet Knights did not play down to the level of their opponent. The way Rutgers has with Georgetown, Miami, and St. Johns. Rutgers played with intensity and purpose against a team that they were supposed to beat. That is not insignificant. When was the last time that Rutgers totally manhandled a team that it was supposed to totally manhandle? That has been a recurring problem under Gary Waters. "It's only Yale, Coach." Nice to see some focus and some discipline. For a change.
3. 30-0 Run. PF Herve Lamizana led the assault with 13 points during the outburst. It was nice to hear about Herve asserting himself. Especially in a typical letdown game. PG Marquis Webb and CG Juel Wiggan added 13 points to the run. For a team that has only three reliable scoring options, it was nice to hear two role players were key components in the 30-0 run.
4. Marquis Webb. Against Syracuse, Marquis scored 11 points on only 6 FGAs. On a night when many of his teammates couldn't find the basket, his unselfishness was detrimental to the team. In my "10 Thoughts on the Syracuse Game," I stated that Webb really needs to start shooting more. Especially when Herve, Ricky Shields, or Quincy Douby are struggling. Well, apparently Gary Waters drew the same conclusions and encouraged Webb to be more aggressive offensively. The results? A career-high 16 points on only 8 FGAs. Webb is an economical shooter. He needs to look to score without forcing his shot. A fourth viable scoring option will result in better shots for Herve, Ricky, and Quincy.
5. Juel Wiggan. Wiggan had an outstanding stat line. He scored 11 points 4 of 7 FGAs, 1 of 2 3PAs, and 2 of 2 FTAs. Juel also added 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal. Wiggan has got to be able to contribute some scoring. Otherwise, he is an offensive liability. But he has to play in control. Wiggan has to recognize his limitations and not get carried away shooting too much (like Joel Salvi did late in his career).
6. Free Throw Shooting. Rutgers made 18 of 22 FTAs. Surprisingly, leading FT shooter Webb was the "weak" link, making only 3 of 5 FTAs. Free throw shooting will be a key to winning at Boston College this weekend. Getter to the FT line. And then make the FTAs.
7. Byron Joynes. Joynes suffered a back strain before the Seton Hall game. Joynes, while still a very raw young player, constitutes the only real beef on the Scarlet Knight roster. Joynes absence against Seton Hall might have been more crucial had the team showed up not thinking that they had arrived. His absence against Syracuse was more critical as Syracuse out-muscled a foul-saddled Rutgers front line in the second half. Next up is Boston College with mammoth PF Craig Smith. Joynes' presence will be crucial to provide Sean Axani and Adrian Hill with rest. And to spell them in the likelihood of foul trouble. Rutgers will need Joynes – and his five fouls – against Boston College. It's good to see him back because it was feared that he was lost for the season.
8. One Dimensional. Ricky Shields had another one-dimensional performance. He attempted 9 FGAs. Eight were 3PAs. He scored only 3 points in the first half – in the final two minutes. And he scored only 10 for the game. Shields' preoccupation with the 3-pointer is emblematic of the broader problem with the Rutgers offense. It relies too much upon 3-point shooting. There isn't much focus upon dribble penetration or upon inside scoring. Instead, the Knights live or die with the 3-ball. Good shots or bad.
9. Rematch. Nice win. Now, build on it in the rematch in Blacksburg. Two years ago, with an NCAA bid on the line, Rutgers failed to show up in a dismal performance at Blacksburg.
10. Calvin Wooten. On Friday, the Athletic Department announced the indefinite suspension of Calvin Wooten. Sources have told me that Wooten will not return to the team. The departure of Wooten would mark the sixth player loss in less than three years under Gary Waters. And the third player – and the conerstone – from Waters' first full recruiting class. More disconcerting are the circumstances surrounding this situation. Rumors first emerged one month ago that Waters might run Wooten from the program. Before any substantial disciplinary measures (e.g., suspension) had been announced. And ten months after Waters publicly announced that he would run Jason McCoy, Mike Sherrod, and Juel Wiggan from the program. Now, Wooten appears to be gone, too. Six departures in three years doesn't reconcile with the themes of "family" and "healing" that Waters preached upon his arrival at Rutgers. What is going on here? What kind of program is Waters running?
I missed this game with a family commitment. I didn't even bother listening to a replay once I saw the outcome. Take it for what is was. A good win over a bad road team. But it means nothing with regards to the post-season. This game was penciled in as a win back in November.
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