Webb lifts RU over South Carolina State

Rutgers rebounded from a road loss at North Carolina to close out its non-conference schedule – and the year 2006 – with a 75-to-68 victory over South Carolina State. Marquis Webb led Rutgers with a career high 28 points, including 5 three pointers. The Scarlet Knights will enter the Big East wars, starting with a visit to the Meadowlands against Seton Hall on Wednesday, with a 7-6 record.

The Knights also welcomed the return of starters JR Inman and Anthony Farmer, who were both missing in action against the Tar Heels due to one-game suspensions for violations of team academic policies. Both of them served potent reminders of just how much Rutgers was missing against North Carolina: Inman was one rebound shy of a double-double with 15 points (on 7 of 11 shooting), 9 boards, and 2 blocks in just 24 minutes.

Farmer meanwhile, scored 16 points (on 6 of 9 from the field, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc), dished out 5 assists, pulled down 5 rebounds, had 1 steal, and 1 block, while playing what Head Coach Fred Hill called a "wonderful, efficient" game. Farmer's game was so superb that perhaps the greatest mystery in watching him lately is trying to figure out how he can make such big shots in key moments while also struggling at the free throw line. He was just 2 for 5 from the charity stripe (had he made two more he would have also set a new career high in points) and for the year is just 18 for 32 for a rather mediocre 56%.

Ollie Bailey also came up big in his 17 minutes of action with 7 points and 4 rebounds, and the toughness and intensity he brings to the court will be sorely needed in league competition. Ditto for Hamady N'diaye, whose seemingly unimpressive stat line (0 points, 2 boards, 1 steal, and 1 block) don't begin to indicate the steady improvement he continues to make. And no matter what he does, he will always be a presence defensively.

The only players that seemed to struggle in this game were Jaron Griffin and Courtney Nelson. Griffin suffered through a horrible 1 for 11 shooting performance (his only basket being a breakaway steal for a jam) with 4 turnovers, while Nelson shot 1 for 4 and seemed at times to be still suffering from a hangover from the North Carolina nightmare. Meanwhile, it was hard to gauge Adrian Hill in this game: he took only two shots, attempted just two free throws, scored 4 points, and didn't grab a single rebound in 26 minutes. It was thus hard to say he struggled because, except for his 3 blocked shots, it was hard to actually notice him.

This game though, without question, belonged to Marquis Webb. His 28 points shattered his previous career-best of 19 set way back in his freshman year, and he also snared 6 rebounds, had 3 assists, and 1 steal while playing his trademark tenacious defense. He also continued his role as Rutgers best free throw shooter, hitting 7 of 8, including a perfect 6 of 6 during the last minute and ten seconds when a stubborn South Carolina St. was forced to foul.

This game, a closer affair than many expected, was in that regard much like Rutgers last home game against Lehigh. Still, a win is a win, and the Knights will gladly take it. Coach Hill afterwards was quite positive about his young team, "I love our guys, our team, and their work ethic", he said. Finally, this game was also similar to the Lehigh affair in another way – like Lehigh, sitting several rows behind the RU bench was another prominent visitor: this time it was top 2008 target Devin Ebanks.

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