Rutgers extended their losing streak to nine games in a 54-52 physical battle against South Florida. "I thought both teams were playing very hard. I thought it was a very physical game. Bodies were bouncing all over the place, players were tackling each other over loose balls and I thought we brought a lot of intensity and matched their physicality", coach Hill concluded. "We were down by as a much as 16 at one point and we refused to give up and scrapped our way all the way back into the lead."
Anthony Farmer led all Rutgers scorers with a game high 19 points, including a difficult driving shot with only 1:49 remaining to give the Scarlet Knights their first lead of the game. JR Inman had 8 points with three resounding second half dunks as he played tough in the paint the entire night. Corey Chandler had 7 for the Scarlet with each player scoring at least 3 points.
Rutgers got off to a shaky start by missing their first five shots while allowing da Bulls to jump out to an early 10-2 lead. It wasn't the missed shots on offense that concerned coach Hill but the early breakdown of the defense which allowed USF guard Jesus Verdejo drop in 3 straight 3 pointers. Coach felt "we didn't defend early on, we wanted to take the 3 pointer away, but we missed some rotations, one guy trapped, while missing his rotation, and we started out making defensive mistakes which has not been the norm for us. " South Florida's offense was running on all cylinders and managed a 17-2 run starting midway through the half which gave them a 16 point lead with 7 minutes to go. Rutgers chipped away by working the ball inside and out against the strength of USF center Kentrell Gransberry . Byron Joynes and Hamady N'Diaye forced USF to collapse into the middle while Anthony Farmer and his supporting cast scored after the ball had been dished outside. Farmer had 9 of 19 while Verdejo ended the half with 14 of his 16 points for the game.
Rutgers trailed by 7 at the half on the wrong end of a 30-23 score.
Rutgers successfully took away the three point play of USF in the second half while Anthony Farmer and JR Inman stepped up and began to lead Rutgers during their comeback. A couple of slam dunks by Inman and an intentional hard foul by Gransberry against Joynes allowed the Knights to cut the lead to 1 point by the 16:32 mark.
To their credit, faced with a noisy and raucous crowd of 5,856 scarlet clad fans, USF would not allow the Knights to complete a sustained run. They managed to keep Rutgers at a short arms length with their lead teetering between 1 to 6 points. It wasn't until the 1:47 mark that Farmer drained the shot that would finally give Rutgers the lead at 50-49. With the game tied at 52-52 Dominique Jones broke away to give USF the lead for good at 54-52. With 16.2 seconds left coach wanted to get the ball into Anthony Farmers hands. "He was feeling it, and I was confident he could make a play and make a shot." Anthony got a little twisted around and off balance and was forced to pass the ball off to JR Inman who in turn dished the ball to Mike Coburn. Mike's contested 3 point attempt at the buzzer missed the mark.
Coach Hill felt that "Dominique Jones really carried them down the stretch, he made some great plays. He was really the difference maker. He carried them when we came back". Jones led all USF scorers with 17 points, 12 in the second half. In retrospect, coach simply said, "these guys battle, battle, battle, and that's all you can ask for. It isn't just the final shot, it's everything that takes place up to that point."
Senior center Byron Joynes played his final home game as a Scarlet Knight and deservedly got his first start since the 05-06 season. He played an incredibly hard and tough 32 minutes, his season high, and challenged the talented Kentrell Gransberry all night. He held the Gransberry to 11 points and 10 rebounds, 6 points and 1 rebound below his season average. In his final home game, the warhorse captain came out a winner by giving everything he had in his tank.
Rutgers Loses on Senior Day
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