TEN THOUGHTS ON THE NOTRE DAME GAME
Rutgers played an inspired basketball game but nonetheless came out on the wrong end of a 66-56 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend. The Fighting Irish scored eight consecutive points to take an early five-point lead that Notre Dame could not expand. Rutgers scored six straight points and briefly took the lead, 23-22, with six minutes remaining in the 1st Half. The lead changed hands thrice more as Notre Dame led 30-29 at halftime. After Rutgers scored the opening basket of the 2nd Half to retake the lead, its last of the game, Notre Dame scored eight consecutive points to take a seven-point lead, 38-31. Rutgers spent the rest of the game fighting back. The Scarlet Knights would close to within a few points and the Irish would open the lead back up. Back and forth it went. Rutgers made three runs at Notre Dame; the Fighting Irish parried each of them. Notre Dame's final push extended the lead to nine points, 62-53, after Rutgers had closed within two points at 7:30. Game over. Here are ten thoughts on the Notre Dame game.
1. Road Kill. After four complete seasons in the Big East, Rutgers Head Coach Gary Waters sports a 2-30 road record in league games. The effort, so often lacking on the road in Waters tenure, was undoubtedly present as Rutgers outworked Notre Dame. However, the Fighting Irish simply outsmarted the Scarlet Knights. A team shooting 50% on FGAs is going to beat a team shooting 30% almost every time. And why does this Rutgers team consistently shoot 30%? Because it doesn't work for good shots. At most schools, a 2-20 road record would force a coach to hit the road to look for a new job. At Rutgers, patience is more important than either progress or performance. And, to be clear, after the second winless league road slate in three years, there hasn't been acceptable progress or performance.
2. 60-Point Barrier. For the sixth time in league play, the Scarlet Knights failed to score more than 60 points. For the tenth consecutive Big East game, Rutgers failed to score 30 points in the 1st Half. Rutgers scored only 29 points in the 1st Half against Notre Dame. Despite a sizzling 1st Half by Quincy Douby and a strong effort off the bench by Jimmie Inglis. The Scarlet Knights shot only 28% from the field in the 1st Half and a marginally better 31% in the 2nd Half. Rutgers shot better from behind the 3-point arc (33%) in the 1st Half than it shot inside the arc (25%). Scarlet Knight players repeatedly forced bad shots instead of working for better shots. And missed a lot of easy shots near the basket.
3. Offensive Rebounding. Rutgers was outshot by a 20% differential from the field throughout the game. Yet, the Scarlet Knights trailed by only one at halftime and by two with 7:30 remaining. How did the team that can't shoot straight stay in the game? Offensive rebounds. The Scarlet Knights grabbed 19 of 44 rebounds available on Notre Dame's defensive glass. Rutgers had a 19-5 margin in offensive rebounds that allowed gave Rutgers a 71-52 edge in FGA equivalents (FGAs and FTAs). That huge differential almost allowed the Scarlet Knights to steal a win on the road.
4. Second Chance Points. Rutgers only converted those 19 offensive rebounds into 18 second chance points. Rutgers scored only 10 second chance points in the 1st Half off of 12 offensive rebounds and only 6 second chance points in the 2nd Half off of 7 offensive rebounds. Too often, the Scarlet Knights could not finish an easy putback opportunity. Or didn't even attempt to attack the rim from favorable position against a disorganized Fighting Irish defense. The inability to put back point blank opportunities negated the tremendous offensive rebounding effort.
5. Ricky Shields. Ricky was MIA in a game in which his teammates crucially needed him. Shields only scored 2 points in 25 undeserved minutes. He made 1 of 8 FGAs and 0 of 2 3PAs. His shot selection was atrocious. He was selfish. And he was lit up defensively. There were the ridiculously out-of-control drives to the basket. There was the 3-on-2 fast break where he bricked a foul line jumper with Douby wide open on the 3-point arc. There was the dribble drive when he launched a prayer over Irish PF Dennis Latimore while Byron Joynes was open on the baseline. Other than that, he played well.
6. Quincy Douby. Douby had a marvelous 1st Half. He scored 13 points on 3 of 6 FGAs, 2 of 2 3PAs, and 5 of 5 FTAs. His scoring kept Rutgers in the game. However, Douby disappeared in the 2nd Half. He scored only six points on 2 of 10 FGAs, 0 of 5 3PAs, and 2 of 2 FTAs. He forced a couple of deep threes. He missed a couple of easy dribble drives. His only FTAs were taken in place of Byron Joynes, who was cut when he was fouled. Without Douby's scoring, the Rutgers offense had no real scoring options in the 2nd Half.
7. Two-Headed Center. Byron Joynes played 33 minutes. Jimmie Inglis played 21 minutes. Much of Inglis' playing time occurred alongside Joynes. Possibly the first time that Waters has paired his two centers together on the court. Joynes and Inglis played outstanding post defense. Irish C Torin Francis was held to 8 points on 2 of 5 FGAs and 4 of 4 FTAs. Irish PF Dennis Latimore was held to 4 points. Joynes hauled in a career-high 15 rebounds – six offensive and nine defensive. He was a space eater inside. His only shortcoming was his inability to convert the offensive rebounds into more points. Inglis caused tremendous problems for Notre Dame in the post and on the offensive glass. Jimmie scored 12 points on 3 of 4 FGAs and 6 of 8 FTAs. He also grabbed six rebounds, of which four were offensive. As the Scarlet Knights continued to struggle offensively in the 2nd Half, they did not use Inglis enough after he scored six points in the 1st Half and four more in the first five minutes of the 2nd Half.
8. Marquis Webb. Webb's game could best be described as a tale of two courts. Defensively, Webb smothered Irish PG Chris Thomas. Thomas scored only 10 points on 3 of 9 FGAs, 0 of 5 3PAs, and 4 of 4 FTAs. However, Thomas did much of his damage late in the game when Webb was not guarding him. However, Webb really struggled at the other end of the court. He hit a 3-pointer on the first shot of the game. His offensive game went downhill from there. Webb scored ten points but made only 3 of 12 FGAs, 1 of 6 3PAs, and 3 of 4 FTAs. He missed several open 3PAs and forced a couple of bad dribble drives.
9. Struggling for a Shot. During the final ten minutes, Rutgers scored only 10 points. The offense was painful to watch as the perimeter players passed up open shots until forced to shoot with the shot clock winding down. Shields was on the bench, leaving Douby as the primary scoring option. Webb and Juel Wiggan were reluctant to shoot. Manny Quezada was out of control. In spite of the struggles on the perimeter, the guards refused to feed Inglis or Joynes in the post. Joynes attempted two shots in the final ten minutes. Inglis attempted none.
10. Notre Dame Offense. Rutgers defense made the Notre Dame offense resemble that of Rutgers. Thomas was unable to create off the dribble. Notre Dame was unable to score in the post. Notre Dame was forced to rely upon the perimeter shooting of SG Chris Quinn and SF Colin Falls. Quinn scored 14 points on 5 of 8 FGAs, 2 of 3 3PAs, and 2 of 2 FTAs. Falls outdid Quinn, scoring 18 points on 6 of 11 FGAs, 5 of 10 3PAs, and 1 of 2 FTAs. Notre Dame ran Quinn and Falls along the baseline, where they curled around screens set by the Irish big men. The Rutgers guards did a poor job of fighting through the screens, too often going under the screens and yielding the open jump shot. And the Scarlet Knight defenders covering the screeners often didn't read the screen and show on the shooter. Throughout the 2nd Half, Notre Dame continually answered Rutgers surges with timely 3-point shooting. Cut. Screen. Curl. Shoot. Why doesn't Rutgers do this more often? As they did so effectively against Villanova last year in the NIT?
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