RU evens up against Iona

At first glance, especially to an outsider, Rutgers 66-to-51 win over Iona to pull even at 5-5 and drop the winless Gaels to 0-8, might seem unremarkable. But with the win, the Scarlet Knights showed they may be starting to provide an answer to the most frequently-asked question about them heading into this year.

With the early departure of Quincy Douby and his 25.4 points to the NBA, everyone has wanted to know where Rutgers scoring would come from this season.  With four players reaching double-figures, led by JR Inman's game high 14, the Knights are starting to show they were correct when they answered in pre-season: "From everywhere".  Indeed, in a somewhat uneven game that Rutgers led throughout, it's beginning to appear more and more that this young Rutgers team is very much a work in progress and with a long way to go - but that they are now noticeably on their way.

Granted, Iona has been struggling mightily early on this year, but it still must be progress when Rutgers can have Marquis Webb play 27 minutes without scoring, shoot 44.9 % from the field and 26.7 % from three, and still win by fifteen points.  Oh, and the Knights were also actually out-rebounded as well, 42-to-33 - although that stat may be somewhat misleading, as Iona mainly capitalized on their own poor shooting (34 %) by snaring ten more offensive rebounds (19-to-9, but to no avail) than Rutgers.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to Iona's offensive woes was the good defense played by the Scarlet Knights.  Rutgers effort was consistent throughout this game, and they never lost their intensity.  Unlike their two most recent outings against New Hampshire and Princeton, in which RU, after leading big in the first half, would go on to win in a much too-close-for-comfort manner (especially against New Hampshire), Rutgers actually increased their lead in the second half against the Gaels.

Rutgers jumped out to an early 13-to-1 lead, and the most that lead would ever be cut down to would be one, when a Devon Clarke lay-up cut the gap to 29-to-28 with 2:24 left in the first half.  But that would be the closest Iona would ever get, as the Scarlet Knights would score the last seven points of the half to lead at intermission, 36-to-28.  Rutgers would increase that lead by seven points in the 2nd stanza to finish with the fifteen point margin of victory.

With this win, Rutgers is starting to show that it is receiving contributions from multiple sources.  JR Inman was once again the scoring leader, but he bested Anthony Farmer for that honor by just one point.  Jaron Griffin had a very balanced line: 11 points, 4 rebounds, a team-high 4 assists, 1 steal, with just one turnover, in a team-high 35 minutes.  Adrian Hill was the fourth Scarlet Knight to reach double-digits in scoring with 10 points, and no recounting of this game would be complete without giving Hill the tremendous praise he deserves for his truly warrior-like performance in this game.

He would leave the game for good with 17:43 left in the second half after apparently slamming his kneecap (the one covering the surgeries) into a corresponding one from an Iona player.  At that point he had played just 16 minutes, but finished with those 10 points, and also nine rebounds (which also tied Inman for the team lead).  But those totals, as impressive as they were for just 16 minutes, don't begin to convey his effectiveness or his effort in the game.  When he converted a free-throw to finish off a three-point play (after scoring on an offensive put-back off a Courtney Nelson miss and being fouled), to give Rutgers a 21-to-14 lead at the 9:27 mark of the 1st half, it gave him 8 points in the game.  He and JR Inman were dominant early, and at that point Inman had already scored 8 points as well, to combine for 16 of RU's 21 points.

In this game, RU looked for Inman early down low, and it seemed that for most of their possessions, the ball would at least pass through Inman's hands.  His role is clearly expanding for Rutgers this year, and this game is the latest evidence of that: 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 steals in 27 minutes.  He was 9-of-10 from the foul line, drawing frequent contact from Iona as he took the ball aggressively to the hole - something we are seeing him do far more frequently than last year.

There were other valuable contributions on a night when Marquis Webb was nearly invisible: Courtney Nelson scored just four points in 26 minutes, but committing just one turnover in that time was huge.  Frank Russell was quite effective in his 13 minutes of action with two baskets for four points and also a team-high two blocked shots.  Hamady N'diaye looked quite fearsome with two monstrous dunks and a foul shot to finish with 5 points, along with 4 rebounds and 1 block, in ten minutes of action.  The only thing that appears to be holding him back from dominating some games, at least defensively, is foul trouble.

All things considered, this win was a total team effort.  Long journeys are comprised of many, many small steps, and this young Rutgers team appears to be taking them, one step at a time.

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