Growing Pains

Rutgers suffered its first loss of the season, falling at home to St. Bonaventure, 64-63 in overtime. With the loss, the Scarlet Knights fell to 3-1, while St Bonaventure improved to 3-1. This loss should serve as a reminder to Rutgers fans why the phrase is called "growing pains" as opposed to "growing process".

Although it's very early in the season, it's obvious that Rutgers is an improved team this year. The young Scarlet Knights are bigger, deeper, and more talented than they've been in a long time. However, the operative word is "young", and with victories in their first three outings, perhaps it's been difficult to remember lately just how young Rutgers is. After yesterday's loss, it should be a little easier to remember.

In addition to its youth, the Scarlet Knights are also trying to work back in two players, seniors JR Inman and Jaron Griffin, who were suspended at the beginning of the year, and sophomore guard Corey Chandler, who sat out the first game of the year for personal reasons, and is now coming off the bench. All these challenges proved too much for Rutgers on this afternoon against an improved St. Bonaventure team that came to play.

Early on, it seemed difficult to say the same thing about RU. At times, the Scarlet Knights seemed like they might have preferred to be watching football or preparing for Thanksgiving break. The Bonnies just seemed to want this game a little more, perhaps best evidenced by the fact that they outrebounded Rutgers 51-40. St Bonaventure had 22 second chance points to RU's 7, and the Bonnies's had 14 points off the fast break to just 2 for the RU.

Rutgers was led in scoring by its two talented freshmen Mike Rosario and Greg Echenique, who had 14 points apiece. Echenique also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. St Bonaventure meanwhile was led by talented junior guard Jonathan Hall, who scored a game-high 19 points, pulled down 9 rebounds, and had 4 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal.

"For the first 35 minutes I thought we could've been more efficient, could've been better off the glass", said Rutgers Head Coach Fred Hill. "Offensively, I thought we did a good job of reversing the ball, of throwing the ball inside. We missed a couple, but we scored a couple of times in there. We just didn't shoot the ball that well today". Indeed, and had the Scarlet Knights been more effective from the free throw line (where they missed 10 out of 21 attempts), they still might have won the game.

Overall, Hill was pleased with the defensive effort, and that is not what cost them this game. "We just didn't make the right passes, make the right decisions", he said. All of that is attributable to the youth of this team, and this appears to be something that Rutgers fans are going to have to get used to. It certainly has been something that Hill has long cautioned about. Still, it doesn't make this tough loss any easier to take.

Perhaps the player taking it the hardest was senior guard Anthony Farmer. About the very last play in overtime, where Rutgers trailed by one point with nine seconds left, Hill said the plan was for Farmer to drive to the hoop in the hope of drawing a foul and going to the free throw line with a chance to win it. Farmer instead passed it up court to Mike Rosario.

Said Hill: "Anthony should've centered the ball. We just came out of a timeout. I have all the confidence in the world in Anthony. We got the ball into his hands, we're going to come up the middle of the floor, we freed Mike on the one side, we're going to play a 1-4 low set, we're in a two shot bonus. What I really want is for Anthony to drive it hard, and get fouled and go the line and win the game for us. He saw a guy open and instinctually he put the ball ahead".

Farmer said that "it was poor execution on my part". As a senior and a leader, and a player without whom Rutgers would have had no chance to even be in the game, he was being way too hard on himself. This was a tough game for RU to lose, but we were all forewarned that there would be days like this. It may not make it any easier to take, but that's the reality for the Scarlet Knights right now. Give credit to St Bonaventure as well.

NOTES: Perhaps the most refreshing aspect on an otherwise depressing afternoon was the high words of praise Hill had for senior JR Inman. The contentious relationship between the head coach and the senior forward is no secret to Scarlet Knight fans, so to hear Hill heap huge praise on Inman, as he did yesterday, was a good thing, regardless of the game's outcome. "JR had two huge defensive stops. They were huge. He's a senior, and he knows what to do, so to see him come off the bench and do that for us is huge. He's coming back from a suspension and we're going to work him in more, but they were just two huge plays for us. We need that".

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