Rutgers Defeats St. Peter's, 68-47

The Rutgers got back on track today, ending a two-game losing streak and getting a much-needed win, by defeating St Peter's 68-47. RU managed to close the door on a bad week that saw them lose to both St Bonaventure and Lehigh at home. The Scarlet Knights avenged last season's loss to the Peacocks. Next up is Rider Wednesday night, and the chance to avenge another loss from last year.

"Our defense was outstanding in the first half", said Rutgers Head Coach Fred Hill. It most certainly was, as Rutgers held St Peter's to 12.9% shooting from the field. The Peacocks made only 4 out of 31 field goal attempts, and Rutgers went into halftime with a 26-12 lead. The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over 15 times in the first half, and according to Hill, "it should've been 40-12 at the half". Said Hill: "We're trying to run, and when you try and push the ball at every opportunity, at every shot attempt that they have, you're going to have some turnovers".

Rutgers had 29 turnovers in the game. Hill said that the goal is for Rutgers to be under 15 turnovers for each game. Hill said that, "I don't know if we were too amped offensively … I don't have an answer. All I know is that our defense was outstanding. I don't know if there's a correlation, but we had 15 turnovers by halftime". Perhaps there was a correlation, perhaps not, but what was apparent in this game fairly early on was that this was not going to be a repeat of last year's debacle up in Jersey City.

Considering how bad the previous week was, it was not surprising that Rutgers would come out with a different starting lineup. Mike Rosario, Hamady Ndiaye, and Earl Pettis assumed their customary roles as starters, but Mike Coburn started in place of Anthony Farmer, and JR Inman started over Greg Echenique. However, Hill said that this was not a change made for reasons people might normally assume: "I went to our captains, and said we've kind of had some slow starts. Let's change the lineup. Not for any basketball reason, but for the sake of change, to give our team a little boost."

He continued, stating that this was "a chance to get some other guys going". He said he "went to the captains. Anthony said that he would come off the bench. He said he would bring a spark off the bench for us. Hamady said ‘Coach, I can bring that spark off the bench'. They both offered to not start. (But) Gregory was sick, it was going to be H. But Gregory had a stomach virus, and that put H back in the starting lineup along with JR".

Hill added that nothing is set in stone, and that it is entirely possible to see a different starting lineup on Wednesday. He said that "it evolves over each practice. It evolves over what we see every day on a daily basis". He said the goal is to get "better starts", and that "we're looking for that right combination to give us that spark". What the head coach tried to emphasize was that the change was not basketball-related, stating that "it was an opportunity to give someone else a chance to give us a spark".

"I feel we have 9 starters", said Hill. "JR Inman is a starter. Whether he starts or not is irrelevant. Jaron Griffin is a starter. Whether he starts or not is irrelevant. I feel there are nine guys out there that are starters, and I've got to put five of them on the floor. That's how we make those determinations". Whatever the motivation, and despite whatever imperfections RU may have still displayed in this game, this was clearly not a repeat of last year's effort against St Peter's, nor the abysmal displays of the previous week.

For one thing, Rutgers clearly seemed like a team that was more in sync with one another, a team that moved the ball better, and perhaps most importantly, moved better without the ball. In other words, they displayed far more cohesiveness in this outing, and that ultimately is what Hill and his staff are looking for. RU displayed an extremely balanced attack in this game, with eight players logging more than 15 minutes. Gregory Echenique, stomach virus and all, logged the most minutes for RU with 29.

He pulled down 9 rebounds in those 29 minutes out there, which tied him for game-high honors with JR Inman, who also was one of only two Scarlet Knights to score in double-figures, tallying 10 points. Anthony Farmer (who also converted a steal into a breakaway dunk!) led Rutgers with 13 points. All told, Rutgers outrebounded St Peter's 48-25, and recorded 12 blocks to just 2 for the Peacocks. (Those blocks came from just three players: Inman, who had two, Echenique with four, and of course the expected leader, Ndiaye, with six).

Notes: One other extremely positive note from this game was free-throw shooting. Rutgers has been a team that has struggled mightily at times, turning in efforts where the outcome might have been different had they just shot their free throws a little better - like St. Bonaventure, where they missed 10 attempts and lost by a point. The Scarlet Knights made 20 out of 24 attempts for 83%, a percentage only lower than their best effort of the year, which was the 85% they shot against Robert Morris.

Christian Morris tallied the first point of his RU career when he converted the front end of a one-and-one with four seconds left in the game.

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