Rutgers defeats Bryant, 67-37

Yeah, it was only Bryant, but Rutgers scored its most lopsided victory of the season with a 67-37 demolition yesterday at the RAC. RU played stifling defense and displayed good ball movement in putting together an impressive all-around effort. Considering the problems Rutgers has had at home this year against supposedly inferior competition, this win should not be discounted.

"Our defensive energy. Our defensive execution". That is what Rutgers Head Coach Fred Hill said was what he liked most in Rutgers 67-37 pasting of Bryant University. On an afternoon when RU's head man saw an awful lot to like, it was not surprising that this is what he picked. RU held Bryant to 22.4% shooting for the game, and even though Rutgers played what was inarguably a pretty bad team, it was evident that on defense the Scarlet Knights had the eye of the tiger yesterday.

What evidently pleased Hill as much as the defense was the Scarlet Knights ability to completely put this team away the way it was supposed to. Rutgers went into the half with a 33-20 lead after holding Bryant to 27% shooting, but rather than let up and let the Bulldogs creep back into it after intermission, Rutgers took it up a notch in the second half. "We talk about getting leads and then putting people away, and this is the first time we've been able to do that all year. In the second half we held them to 17 points and 18 and a half shooting percentage – you're playing with energy, you're still playing basketball the right way", Hill said.

"When you can do that", he said, "you're still executing your game plan defensively. Human nature is to let up and not do that, and that's something we've talked about. Today we were able to do that, and I'm very, very pleased". Hill said that he's been pleased with his team's defensive effort throughout most of the season, but what was another positive in the win was that the team was able to score in the first half. "Offensively, we made some shots. Mike (Rosario – 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal) knocked down a couple of big shots", he said. Then he mentioned a player whose stat line hardly seems impressive, but who had a huge hand in the win.

"Corey (Chandler) had four assists in the first half, and that's huge. He didn't score a lot of points for us tonight, but he affected the game on the defensive end, and he affected the game on distributing the ball". Indeed. Chandler only scored one point, but was once again a monster on defense, and several of his assists were highlight reel stuff, particularly his only one in the second half (more about that in a moment).

Hill went on: "Our big guys did a great job. We went inside-out. I thought Gregory (Echenique – 11 points, 11 rebounds) and H (Ndiaye – 5 points, 4 rebounds)both passed up some opportunities when they collapsed in the zone on those guys, kicked it back out to open guys, and Mike was the recipient of being able to knock down a few threes". He then said that "I thought offensively we got out to a good start, and defensively we played strong throughout the game".

Perhaps the best sign that this young team is on the road to improvement is reflected in this comment from the coach: "I really liked our ball movement today", he said. The Knights were extremely unselfish in this game, to the point where Hill said that "in the second half, what I really like was we gave up open three's ". Hill said that Bryant's game plan is to give teams the three-point shot, and he was pleased with RU's ability to pass them up at times and drive to the basket and draw fouls. RU sank 18 out of 24 FT attempts.

"I thought this was a very complete game for us by everybody at both ends of the floor", he said. Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism that RU fans can take from this game was the game Corey Chandler played, particularly his ability to mesh with Mike Rosario. Chandler once again did not start, and once again he struggled with his jumper, but about his shooting woes, he said this: "It doesn't matter if I'm not clicking. We have Mike Rosario, who had 18 points today. He hit a lot of open shots, and it was from me driving and kicking it to him".

Chandler went on: "If I'm not clicking, I can take it to the rack, and kick it to him". Then Coach Hill chimed in on what was one of the more spectacular plays of the game, which occurred off of Chandler's last assist: "It developed about 80 feet from the basket when Corey had the ball and saw Mike Kuhn, a walk-on, running up the right sideline. He made eye contact with him, he pushed him and said ‘keep going'. From deep in the backcourt, 80 feet away, he drove it up and told mike to keep going and threaded the needle with a bounce pass to get the ball in his hands and give him a chance to score".

What Hill was reminded of was that the play initially was made possible by Chandler's block, and that he was able to retain possession, and then make the great pass to Kuhn. Hill then joked with a straight face: "Well, I don't want to give him too much credit". Chandler mentioned that he and Rosario were out before the game working out together, working on getting open, and finding one another.

If this is indeed a sign that two of the most gifted guards Rutgers has ever recruited are beginning to get in sync with one another, this lopsided victory over Bryant has far more significance than just the final score.

NOTES: Pat Jackson saw his most extensive action of the season, and along with Mike Kuhn, scored his first basket of the year. Unlike Kuhn's, Jackson took it home himself on an emphatic breakaway dunk.

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