10 THOUGHTS ON THE SETON HALL REMATCH
Rutgers (8-12, 2-8) avenged an embarrassing 74-58 loss to Seton Hall (10-10, 2-7) at the Meadowlands 17 days earlier with a controversial 62-61 overtime victory at the RAC. So SG Quincy Douby made one of two FTAs with no time remaining to break a tie score after a very questionable foul call on an unsuccessful buzzer beater. Rutgers crawled out to an early 8-2 lead over Seton Hall and eventually extended the lead over the cold-shooting Pirates to 20-8 with eight minutes remaining in the 1st Half. However, as has been the case recently, the Scarlet Knights went cold and squandered the lead. Seton Hall narrowed the deficit to four points at halftime, 26-22. Rutgers kept the Pirates at bay for the first six minutes of the 2nd Half. But Seton Hall seized the lead with a quick burst off some sloppy play by Rutgers. The lead changed repeatedly over the final fourteen minutes of regulation. The Pirates overcame a four-point deficit in the final minute to retake the lead. Sr PG Juel Wiggan made one of two FTAs to tie the game in the closing seconds. Rutgers opened an early lead in OT but Seton Hall again fought back to tie the game in the closing seconds before the generous home court call essentially handed Rutgers the win in a hard fought but ugly game. Here are ten thoughts on the Seton Hall rematch.
1. Let the Players Decide the Game. It's a phrase that I typically hate. Because it basically means play without the rulebook. A referee's job is to enforce the rule. Not interpret them. If a player commits a foul, whistle the violation. If a player baits an opponent into a cheap violation, the heady play deserves to be rewarded. The final foul call was a travesty. Douby initiated contact to draw a foul and was rewarded with a bail out call. I missed the final 30 seconds of the game. And the controversial foul call. But both Rutgers and Seton Hall fans seem to be in near total agreement that it was a terrible call that marred a passionate, if poor, game. It cheapened the win. Rutgers Head Coach Gary Waters proclaimed it "divine justice" for six close Rutgers losses. However, I don't remember the referees handing any opponent a game quite like that.
2. The Rivalry. What a sad state of affairs for the Rutgers-Seton Hall game. Rutgers fans did not fill the upper levels of the RAC, which were occupied by blue-clad Pirate fans. However, seats remained available. The RAC was not sold out. Apathy has apparently settled into both programs. At least the two teams played with the passion of a rivalry game.
3. Lineup Changes. Desperate to show some action to halt Rutgers' losing streak but facing few options with a short bench and limited roster, Waters nonetheless juggled his starting lineup. Gary replaced Sr SF Ricky Shields and Douby in the starting lineup with Wiggan and Fr SG Manny Quezada. It was a move smacking of desperation. Especially in the absence of any benchings in previous games for poor and uninspired play. However, the new lineup staked the Scarlet Knights to an early 8-2 lead. The cutting and screening was crisper and, as a result, more effective. The only missing ingredient was the passing to the open cutters. When Waters inserted Shields and Douby into the game, the Rutgers offense sputtered noticeably. The sharp cutting and screening stopped. And the usual stagnant offense reappeared.
4. Don't Cost Nothin'. So said John Blutarsky when offering refreshment to a couple of young lads seeking their destinies. So it is with free throws. They are called free for a reason. After a poor start this season, the Scarlet Knights have been one of the best foul shooting teams in Big East play. Yet Rutgers nearly threw the game away in both regulation and OT with shoddy foul shooting. The Scarlet Knights made only 5 of 10 FTAs in the 2nd Half and only 3 of 6 FTAs in OT. Fr PF Ollie Bailey missed four FTAs, including a front end 1-n-1, in the final minutes of regulation. Wiggan made only one of two FTAs in the final seconds of regulation and again in OT. Byron Joynes made only of one of two FTAs in the final seconds of OT, allowing Seton Hall to tie the game with a basket (instead of a 3-pointer). Had the Scarlet Knights made their free throws, the referees would not have been the prime focus of the post game coverage.
5. Interior Defense. In recent games, Seton Hall has pounded Rutgers inside the paint. In the last game, Jr C Kelly Whitney scored 19 points and attempted 13 free throws. Rutgers refused to be bullied inside at the RAC. So C Byron Joynes played 38 minutes in the absence of Jr C Jimmie Inglis – out with an injured hand – and foul trouble. Joynes battled Whitney for every inch of ground in the low post. Scarlet Knight defenders swarmed Whitney from all sides. Though Kelly scored 13 points on 5 of 10 FGAs, he also committed nine TOs. The entire Pirate team scored only 28 points in the paint. Without their most reliable means of scoring, the Pirates offense sputtered.
6. Quincy Douby. Fans have been commenting upon Douby's lethargic play for a few weeks. The parallels to former Scarlet Knight Dahntay Jones are eerily similar. Jones showed little passion during the final month of his sophomore campaign and transferred out of Rutgers later that spring. Transfer whispers have already swirled once around Douby – late last season. So it isn't surprising that speculation has again emerged about Douby's future with Rutgers. This speculation suddenly has been fanned into flames with a published report that Douby has again been considering a transfer from Rutgers. The losing season has already created obstacles in recruiting the rising high school senior class. An exodus of talent will further compromise recruiting. However, Waters also must regain control of a team. Control he has never really had. So Waters must walk a fine line between keeping Douby without letting Douby run the program. No easy task.
7. Ricky Shields. While Douby responded to his benching with passionate play, Shields remained mired in a deep funk. In four years, Shields has failed to develop his game. In fact, he has regressed to become a one-dimensional perimeter shooter. As the season has spiraled out of control, Shields has been both a catalyst and a victim. His ineffective play – poor shot selection, poor defense, and inadequate leadership – severely handicapped the team. And as the season began circling the drain, the realization of a terrible ending to senior season for which much was hoped has likely contributed to Ricky's ongoing malaise. Ricky's playing time must be regulated for the remainder of the season. He has to earn his minutes with his play on the court. Not as a pension for time already served.
8. Ollie Bailey. Ollie experienced a rude welcome to Big East play, struggling mightily against opponents suddenly as big and strong as is he. Bailey responded by raising the intensity of his play and working harder to develop his game. He is still Rutgers' third scoring option. However, I have noticed a recent tendency by Bailey to contort his body to avoid contact when shooting. The result is often wild shots from good position. Much like former Scarlet Knight Eugene Dabney. When Bailey gets to the front of the rim, he must attack the basket and draw the contact. Use his broad shoulders to shield the ball. The result will be fewer bad point-blank misses and more FTAs. It will also get opponents into foul trouble.
9. Byron Joynes. I truly did not expect much production from Joynes this year. Sure, he dropped about sixty pounds from his freshman year. But he had yet to learn to play at that weight. To learn to move his feet and not lean with his chest. Byron has averaged nearly four fouls per game as foul trouble has constantly limited his playing time. However, Joynes' play has improved considerably as the season has progressed. Once barely functional, Joynes is now providing badly needed interior defense and rebounding. He is also showing more scoring touch around the basket. Both on putbacks and low post moves. Once thought to be keeping the seat warm for Inglis, Joynes has asserted himself as the starter. He still has a long way to go to be a serviceable Big East center, but he is improving.
10. Missing Barrett. Seton Hall Head Coach Louis Orr returned four of five starters this season. Seton Hall was expected to be a solid, middle of the pack Big East team. Instead, the Pirates are mired near the bottom of the league standings. West Virginia and Georgetown, both expected to be cellar dwellers, have passed the Pirates in the standings. The most obvious cause for the Pirates' struggles undoubtedly is the absence of departed former PG Andre Barrett, a four-year starter. Barrett was the catalyst for the Pirate offense. Whether pushing the ball in transition or breaking down the halfcourt defense off the dribble, Barrett created good shots for his teammates. That element is missing from the Pirate offense this season. The Pirates lack accurate perimeter shooting, which allows opponents to pack the paint and swarm Seton's Hall's inside shooters. The Pirate offense looks as poorly conceived, as does that of Rutgers.
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