Rutgers Loses Game, Finds a Budding Star
Rutgers falls to Georgetown, 76-66; freshman Wooten continues to impress
By Dave Paich
Rutgers finally ran up against a team that shoots as poorly from behind the three-point arc as the Knights have been. Unfortunately, Georgetown had another impressive offensive force to fall back on.
Mike Sweetney scored 27 points against an overmatched Rutgers interior defense and Tony Bethel dropped in 20 points as Georgetown out-shot the Knights 48% to 32% in a 76-66 victory in Big East conference play in Maryland last night. Rutgers dropped to .500 overall at 8-8 while Georgetown improved to 10-4.
The Scarlet Knights had no answer for Sweetney, who benefited from some early non-calls while the fouls piled up for Rutgers frontcourt defenders Kareem Wright and Herve Lamizana, both of whom proved unable to control the burly Sweetney inside. Each player floated in and out of the game as a result of foul trouble that, along with the absence of Cortez Davis, Adrian Hill, and Harry Good, forced coach Gary Waters into some experimental lineups, including a four-guard look with Axani on the floor along with Juel Wiggan, Jerome Coleman, swingman Ricky Shields, and freshman Calvin Wooten.
Rutgers continued to struggle from behind the arc, shooting a woeful 6-of-29 from three-point range, highlighted by a 3-15 effort from Jerome Coleman. The slumping shooting guard remains mired in a complete offensive funk that originated with a mysterious virus contracted in the South Pacific and has now extended to a deep mental morass. Coleman finished with 18 points, but hoisted a number of errant shots that might have been better served coming from other shooters. Shields was unable to compensate, as he lifted 10 shots and connected on only two. He finished with a sub-par 7-point game.
While Rutgers two main offensive weapons struggled with their accuracy, freshman combo guard Calvin Wooten continued to sparkle, scoring 13 points in 27 minutes and displaying the all-around game that the Knights have been lacking in the backcourt this season. Wooten shot only 1-for-4 from three-point range, making his mark with penetration from the half-court set and strong mid-range shooting. The 6-1 guard also demonstrated the ability to do what his backcourt mates have been unable to do- break down an interior defense and involve other offensive sources. A quick scan of the box score shows Wooten with two assists, the only Rutgers guard other than Shields to register at all. Wooten's newfound playing time has come not at the expense of the slumping Coleman, but from starting point guard Mike Sherrod, who has been strong defensively but ineffective in breaking the Scarlet Knights' offense free of its half-court sluggishness. Sherrod played only 23 minutes.
Wooten's offensive ability was best demonstrated on an extended sequence in the second half, when the Detroit native penetrated off the dribble from the right wing and executed a pretty wrap-around pass to a cutting Lamizana. On the following possession, Wooten buried an NBA- range three-point shot. Wooten's game presence was on display in the second half when he launched a jumper in the lane, only to have it blocked back into his arms. Regaining control of the ball while still descending from the air, he immediately fired another jumper in traffic and buried the shot.
Rutgers' shooting didn't improve much from the Villanova game, but the defensive intensity was much more apparent. Rutgers opened the game in man to man, while Georgetown switched between zone and press, sticking primarily with zone when it became apparent that the Scarlet Knights shooting struggles were continuing. To compensate for their poor perimeter shooting and an inability to force the ball inside to Wright or Lamizana, Waters made a much more concerted attempt to initiate guard and wing penetration. This, along with fairly effective offensive rebounding, kept Rutgers in the game. Final rebounding totals showed Georgetown with an insignificant 42-41 overall rebounding advantage. Eventually, however, the bulk and height of Sweetney and Wesley Wilson began to wear the Knights down, and the Georgetown lead continued to grow toward the end of the half.
The Knights opened the second half in the full-court press, while Georgetown presented a half-court man defense. Both offenses were clearly shaky at the outset of the half, but Georgetown was able to hit open jumpers and exploit Sweetney inside to push their advantage to double figures on a 6-0 run. Rutgers battled back by tightening the press, which triggered run-outs and fast-break points. The Knights reeled