"We shot 36 percent, it's something that hurt us all last year," Rutgers Head Coach Fred Hill said. "We're not a very good shooting ball club and we got to make shots. We got wide open looks, lay ups and three's. You can't take 21 three's and make five. Our game plan wasn't to take 21 three's so we have to correct that because some guys aren't listening."
The Scarlet Knights shot 36.1 percent from the field for the game but went 2-11 from behind the arc in the second half and finished the game shooting a tad below 24 percent in their 61-57 loss to the Broncs.
"You can't fall in love with the three, especially if there not going," junior guard Anthony Farmer said. "You have to be smart about the situation and you have to try and get inside the paint, try and pull up. You Have to try and attack inside-out, let the post touch it and they can soften it up a little bit. That makes it easier for the guards to drive in and get in the paint."
Farmer was one of the exceptions to Rutgers poor shooting night as he led the Knights with 18 points shooting 6-13 including 2-4 from three point range.
"We just have to come down the stretch and make the right play," Farmer said. "Like I always say, I just try to take what comes to me. Offensively, whatever is making the right play, just making the right decisions to try and help the team win at the end of the night."
Junior forward J.R. Inman also shot the ball well going 6-10 from the field for 15 points. Junior forward Jarron Griffin added 13 points, but struggled from behind the arc going 0-8.
Hill was impressed with the way the team played defense holding Rider to a field goal percentage just under 40 for the game.
"Our defense isn't the issue," Hill said. "They shot 39 percent. To hold a team to 61 points at home, that should win the game.
"We did a phenomenal job in terms of the game plan by getting (senior forward) Jason Thompson into foul trouble," he said. "That was our intent. He's a great player and the best way to beat a great player is to get him on the bench and limit his minutes."
Last year, Jason Thompson was only one of three players to average 20 points and 10 rebounds with the other two being Nick Fazekas of Nevada and Kevin Durant of Texas. Coming into the game he was averaging 20.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. It was up to sophomore center Hamady Ndiaye to keep Thompson in check and he did just that holding him to a pedestrian 12 points and seven rebounds.
"We did a good job holding Jason Thompson," Hill said. "I don't think a lot of people got to have an appreciation for how good that kid really is because of what our guys did. Hamady has developed into one heck of a defensive player. If you take a look at what he was able to do defensively [against UNC's Tyler Hansbrough and Thompson], he's done a heck of a job."
Ndiaye, who finished the game with five points, eight rebounds and six blocks, relishes these opportunities to go up against the best in the nation.
"I got to play against guys that are used to having double-doubles," Ndiaye said. "Everybody talks about them and no one talks about me so the only way for me to get into the system is to get in the way and stop these people."
Rutgers had to play without freshman guard Corey Chandler who's second on the team in scoring with 14.1 points per game and led the team with 23 points against top ranked North Carolina. Hill didn't want to use the loss of his guard as an excuse for the team's loss
"It's an opportunity for someone else to step up," he said. "Some of those shots that other guys got, obviously Corey would have had an opportunity to get. He's a very talented offensive player so we miss his offensive ability but the game plan is still the same, mix it up, drive it, hit the open shot and we got some open looks and we couldn't knock it down."
Farmer said that the loss of Chandler was important and the game had a different feel without the freshman guard.
"It's definitely different playing without Corey out there," he said. "He's the off-guard and is able to attack the rim. His intensity is missed period."
Rutgers held the lead for the majority of what was a sloppy first half with both teams missing shots and turning the ball over. The Knights were able to increase their lead to eight at 27-19 when senior center Byron Joynes had a put back with 2:27 left, but the Broncs went on a late 7-0 run to cut the lead to one going into the half.
Ryan Thompson shined for the Broncs in the first half, picking up the slack for his older brother who was in foul trouble, with some nice finishes when he drove to the basket and was fouled.
There was a stretch in the first half where I thought he put a show on," Rider Head Coach Tommy Dempsey said of Thompson's performance. "He was the best player on the floor for a lot of that first half."
Thompson finished the game shooting 8-14 for 19 points and added nine rebounds leading the Broncs in both categories.
Rider struggled in the first half only shooting 33.3 percent from the field, but picked it up in the second half going 14-30 for a field goal percentage of 46.7 percent in the second half.
"We're very proud of our kids it was a big win," Dempsey said. "Points were hard to come by and our big man struggled a little bit at times, but at the same time a lot of guys stepped up out there and Jason came out there and gave us a quality second half. Our defense carried us, we have been defending all year and to hold a Big East team on the road is big. The things we have been focused on, the guys have been taking care of."
With Rider holding a five point lead midway into the second half, Farmer hit a lay up to cut the lead to three at 48-45 with 7:58 left to play. After that, Rider would go on an 8-0 highlighted by Mansell, giving Rider a 10 point lead.
After hitting a jumper, Mansell then passed it to his brother Patrick, who nailed a three in the corner to make the lead eight. After freshman guard Justin Robinson got in the way of a Rutgers pass hitting it down the court, Harris Mansell laid it up with the right hand to cap off the run.
Things were beginning to look grim for the Knights, who were facing their largest deficit of the game with just over five minutes left to play. They rallied back however going on a 12-2 run tying the game up with just under two minutes left in regulation.
Farmer hit a shot just inside the foul line, was fouled, and was able to complete the three point play cutting the lead to seven. Griffin then picked off a pass leading to Inman nailing his third three pointer of the game. After a Jason Thompson lay up, Griffin was able to answer with a put back on a missed three by junior Courtney Nelson narrowing the lead to four. Farmer would then score four straight points to tie it up at 57 a piece.
"Our goal when the run was on was regardless of the zone to put your shoulders down and attack the gaps and then kick out," Hill said. "Obviously J.R. made a big three and we got to the free throw line and were able to get some offensive rebounds and some stick backs and that's how we came back on that run."
Harris Mansell then shot a three with under a minute left, missed it off the back iron only for freshman guard Matt Griffin to pick up the rebound and kick it back to Mansell who then drove the lane for the lefty lay in to give Rider the lead with 38.8 seconds left.
"I just wanted the ball in my hands," Mansell said. "I talked to Jay earlier about setting more screens and I just came off that. I have been getting my shot blocked pretty much the whole game. I saw that lane open up and I just wanted to get that one in before they could block it."
In the end though, Hill said Rider's defense gave them a difficult time and the team wasn't able to hit shots.
"We talked about mixing it up, we weren't able to shoot the ball," he said. "They play a little 3-2 zone. That's all we talked about basically all year. When people play zone your going to have to make some shots. It's easy to say just to drive it but when they pack it in, it's very difficult to get in the gaps cause they're looking at your shooting percentage and saying you don't shoot the ball very well. Tommy (Dempsey) played a zone which is our Achilles heel if we are not shooting the ball.
"Tonight I think we fell in love with the three a little much," he said. "They rolled the dice a little bit and gave us great looks and we didn't make them. We drill three or four of those three's it's a different ball game."
Rutgers next game will be against another MAAC opponent in Manhattan at home on Dec. 29 at p.m. The game will be broadcasted on SNY.