Tar Heels top RU

Rutgers played valiantly and never quit, but in the end, the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels were simply too much for the Scarlet Knights, prevailing in Piscataway, 93-71. Ty Lawson led Carolina with 26, while All-American Tyler Hansbrough added 20 and pulled down 11 rebounds before leaving with an injury. Corey Chandler led RU with 23 points, while also snaring a team-high 8 rebounds.

"There's a reason they're number 1 in the country", said RU head coach Fred Hill in the aftermath of RU's 93-71 defeat at a sold-out Louis Brown Athletic Center last night. "They've got great players at every position, they've got great depth, and they're a real hard team to slow down", he said. He went on: "They came in averaging 89 points a game, and the game plan was to control tempo, and that's a difficult thing to do. We did it to the best of our ability, but that's a very deep and talented team".

Hill said he was quite happy with the way the Scarlet Knights played in the half-court, stating that, "I actually though we were fantastic (in the halfcourt). They had 8 layups in the first half, shot 43%, so if you take away those 8 fast-break layups and figure out the percentage, we did an outstanding job in half-court defense. The problem is you can't get them to play in the half-court for too many possessions because they're so good at getting up and down the floor".

No player on North Carolina (and perhaps on any team in the country) is better at getting up and down the floor than sophomore point guard Ty Lawson. He hurt Rutgers big-time last night, and was particularly effective in the first half, scoring 19 points and coming up with four steals. He was a potent weapon in the Tar Heels half-court trap on defense, which was often the catalyst for their lethal transition offense. The Scarlet Knights were forced into 12 turnovers in the first half alone, and went into intermission trailing 47-26.

All things considered, it could have been worse for RU, and to their credit, the Scarlet Knights never quit fighting. In many ways this loss was more impressive than some of their victories so far, as North Carolina is by far the most talented team that Rutgers has played (and perhaps will play) this year. Rutgers did their best to adapt to Carolina's half-court traps, but along with the turnovers, RU was also out-rebounded by the hustling, aggressive Heels, who won the battle of the boards 52-40.

The Tar Heels were also more effective at the free throw line, where they made 19 out of 21 attempts. The only player for NC to miss from there was Marcus Ginyard, who shot 3 of 5. Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Wayne Ellington, the only other Carolina players to attempt any free throws, were all perfect from the charity stripe. RU, meanwhile, was a slightly shaky 17 out of 26. More significant were the Scarlet Knights woes from the field: RU shot 25 out of 65 for 38%, and just 4 of 17 from three point land (23%).

In hindsight, it's probably pretty obvious that RU would have an impossible time defeating a team this good with JR Inman having a tough a night as he had. The junior forward was 3 of 14 from the field, 1 of 4 from three, and finished with just 10 points and 3 rebounds. Jaron Griffin continued to struggle as well, shooting 2 for 7 (0-2 from three), and scored 4 points. He only played 16 minutes, as Earl Pettis saw his most extended action of the season. Pettis played 25 minutes, scored 6 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, while looking pretty good for the most part.

In addition to Pettis, perhaps the two most impressive players on this night for RU were Corey Chandler and Anthony Farmer. Farmer played 34 minutes and scored 17 points, on 5 of 10 shooting from the field, and 7 of 8 at the line. Most impressive was that he committed just 2 turnovers. Chandler meanwhile once again single-handedly kept RU going at times. Going head-to-head against Lawson and Ellington, he showed he may have been the overall most spectacular player on the court. Although he also led RU again in turnovers (with 6), Rutgers desperately needs a player that can take over and score points, and it's become quite clear after 11 games that no one on RU does that as well as he does.

RU's two-headed center tandem of Hamady N'diaye and Byron Joynes combined for 14 rebounds, but just 7 points. They were fairly effective on defense, while N'diaye is clearly becoming an imposing force whose very presence may force opponents to alter their shot. He added 4 more blocks to add to his Big East -leading total. On this night though, whatever positives RU had to offer were not enough to overcome the number 1 team in the country. However, if RU continues to play this gamely, they may find a few Big East opponents down the road where it just might be.

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