RU Falls Short Against UConn

In what has become a familiar refrain this year, Rutgers hung tough for awhile but ran out of gas at the end. The visiting UConn Huskies were able to pull away for a 79-61victory at the RAC in a game that was a bit closer than the final score would indicate. What should probably interest RU fans as much as the game itself was an observation that UConn coach Jim Calhoun made afterwards.

Jeff Adrien scored a career high 27 points, and also snared 11 rebounds, to lead the 15th-ranked Connecticut Huskies over Rutgers, 79-61. Stanley Robinson and Craig Austrie also chipped in with 18 points apiece. Robinson also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds, and was one of three UConn players to finish in double figures in rebounds (Hasheem Thabeet had 10). All told, the Huskies out-rebounded the Scarlet Knights 41-24.

Earl Pettis lead Rutgers with a career-high 18 points in 25 minutes, clearly the finest effort of his young RU career. He shot 8 of 11 from the field, and was perfect on his two 3-point attempts. He also tied for the team lead in assists with Anthony Farmer with 3 (and might have had a few more had some of his passes not been muffed by his intended recipients). Pettis was the lone Scarlet Knight to score in double-figures, and he was followed by Anthony Farmer and Byron Joynes, who each tallied 9 points.

Rutgers trailed at the half 43-37, and opened up the second half pretty strongly, cutting the UConn lead to two on a Farmer 3-pointer, 47-45. However, the Huskies would answer with an 11-0 run to take a 58-45 lead. RU would respond with a mini 7 point run of their own to cut it to 6, 58-52, the last three coming on a Mike Coburn 3-pointer at the 9:41 mark. That prompted a UConn timeout, and that would be the closest RU would get for the rest of the game.

"I thought our freshman guards were outstanding, and that was really the bulk of our offense and what carried us", said Rutgers head coach Fred Hill. "They just keep getting better and better and better, and the more minutes I can get them on the floor the better they're going to be down the road". The head coach however, felt that his young team is simply not ready yet to take the steps necessary to win games like this: "We're not there yet", he said bluntly. He then added that "We're getting there, though".

However, the coaching comments that should probably be of most interest to RU fans were those made by visiting head coach Jim Calhoun. He started out his press conference by stating that "This (the RAC) has always been a chamber of horrors for us, even when we've been successful here". He would later state: "Rutgers is a very young basketball team. I just have one statement to say: overall, this is the smallest crowd that I've ever coached against down here – and they're going to be very good. The kid they signed (Mike Rosario), who I've seen play, is a terrific player".

Coach Calhoun went on: "They've got good young players, and they would've been a lot better if some of their fans had turned out for them - because quite frankly, we were coming off a loss, and sometimes we're not … we're very secure we can win, but we don't play secure the entire game, and their fans could have helped them a great deal. So it's really kind of sad for me, in some ways, with a young team. Now I can understand an old team not playing well, but those kids played hard and gave us everything that they had, and they kind of wore out at the end".

"It's a shame to some degree, in my opinion", he said, "that as a basketball guy … I think Fred is doing the right things down here, they'll be very good. When you can bring a McDonald's All-American in, in this short a period of time, it means you're doing the job, and I think once again … it's not my problem, but it is my problem because I love basketball and I think the kids for Rutgers were working exceptionally hard and they deserved to have some people come out".

It's too late for most of that now, unfortunately. Rutgers has just one home game left, this Saturday night against USF. It's senior night and perhaps a good crowd can turn out and help cheer RU on to a victory. It will be the last home game for Byron Joynes, a player that has battled adversity and become a pretty good player. Said Coach Hill of him "I can't say enough about Byron Joynes. He's a senior, and senior night is on Saturday. And the kid has done everything we've asked him to do. He battles, gives up his body and he's always in the right spot. He gives every ounce of energy and heart that he's got. If we had a few more guys like him, we would have won some of these close games."

Fans have an opportunity to heed Coach Calhoun's advice on Saturday night and support this youthful Scarlet Knights team. Support Byron, and to show him how appreciative fans are for his efforts toward this program. They deserve it.

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