SYRACUSE POST-GAME ANALYSIS
1. Rutgers brought its defensive intensity that has been missing of late in embarrassing losses to Villanova and West Virginia. The Scarlet Knights played frenetically and passionately - double-teaming Carmello Anthony and rotating to the open man. The Knights scrapped for loose balls, dogged the Syracuse ballhandlers, and hawked the passing lanes. The gritty defense enabled Rutgers to survive a woeful shooting performance in the first half (26% FGA). The Scarlet Knights forced 17 TOs, at least 10 of which occurred in the first half, allowing Rutgers to hang in.
2. Syracuse's zone defense was a little more passive than usual -- no trapping in the corners or along the sideline. Maybe it is the youth of the team that prevented Boeheim from unleashing its full fury. Nonetheless, Rutgers attacked the Syrcuse zone with reasonble proficiency. The Knigths still dribbled too much dribbling and the passsing was not crisp enough. But Rutgers probed Syracuse zone in the high post and with dribble penetration. Jerome Coleman's eruption started with a kickout off dribble penetration. Rutgers effectively worked the ball into Herve in the high post. 17 of Rutgers 25 baskets were assisted. That's a good indication of solid ball movement. The woeful shooting was the reflecting of poor execution, not poor judgement or poor teamwork.
3. Rutgers showed the best transition game of the season. The boxscore says Rutgers scored only 12 fast break points. That is difficult to accept. Rutgers players broke down court and passed downcourt, giving them numbers advantages. The Scarlet Knights must continue this aggressive play in transition.
4. Rutgers crashed the offensive board, grabbing nearly 40% of all rebounds on their offensive end. Sean Axani (3 ORs) and Herve Lamizana (4 ORs) worked the glass early in the game, keeping the Scarlet Knigths in the game with putbacks. Jerome Coleman (4 ORs) grabbed some big offensive rebounds in the second half, simply out-wanting the Orangemen. The offensive rebounding helped offset a poor shooting night (35% FGAs).
5. Rutgers late meltdown was not so much a failure to handle the Syracuse press as it was injustice. The Scarlet Knights earned free throw opportunities by breaking the press and taking the ball to the rim, where wide-body Jeremy McNeil was waiting. McNeil committed about 9 fouls during the game but instead was credited with blocked shots on 6 of those ..... ummmmm ..... non-fouls. Put McNeil (with his 10 points on 5 of 5 FGAs) on the bench with foul trouble and give Rutgers another 12 FTAs and this game isn't close at the end. The refs did not reward the team that played aggressively. On its home court. It was a travesty. Consider Herve's bank shot good karma that evened the score.
6. Jerome Coleman snapped out of his funk in the second half after scoring only 5 first half points on 2 of 9 shooting. Although Coleman struggled in the first half, his shots weren't bad ones. He just missed open shots. Coleman's game showed strong balance - 3-point shooting, mid-range jumpers, dribble penetration, transition. Once he started feeling it, the Jerome of last year emerged as he buried three deep bombs from progressively further distances. Now, he needs to build on the this performance. Good judgment is the key.
7. Herve had a good all-around game. He just shot poorly. He needs to learn to use his left inside because he's not strong enough to go up with the near hand. Herve was an effective passer from the high post, quickly moving the ball back to the perimeter. His rebounding was also superb -- the 14 rebounds were a career high.
8. Mike Sherrod played outstanding defense on Carmello Anthony, who is a bit of a tap dancer out there. Anthony got the star treatment from the referees. The double-technical with Juel Wiggan was a gutless call by the officials when Anthony clearly was the instigator AND Wiggan simply walked away. The referees also looked the other way on a few late baskets, as Anthony strolled across the court like Patrick Ewing and later hooked Sherrod on a drop-step move. Nonetheless, Sherrod was tough and physical with Anthony though giving up a tremendous size advantage.
9. Ricky Shields had another quietly strong night. He struggled from the field (3 of 12 FGAs and 2 of 8 3PAs). But he hit a big 3-ball to tie the game late. And he took the ball aggressively to the basket, earning 8 FTAs. His passing also was superb as he recorded 6 assists.
10. Sean Axani played strong defense on Hakim Warrick. But Axani must play stronger around the offensive basket. He must finish because he looks like Mike Tompson out there. Kareem Wright was terrible, committing fouls in 4 minutes. One of the fouls was the fault of a guard who was beaten downcourt, forcing Kareem to give up a hard foul. But another foul was a weak, late foul on McNeil as he dunked. Kareem has to stop that nonsense. All the frontcourt players need to stop the weak fouls. Adrian Hill is going to be really good as he develops. He has an aggressiveness like Joel Salvi. As Garland Mance polished Hill's game, Adrian may develop into a player in the mold of former UConn Huskie Kevin Freeman.
7. Juel Wiggan continues to provide solid minutes off the bench. He's tough. He's aggressive. He's unselfish. Good qualities for a role player. Calvin had an off night. Still part of the growing pains. He'll have good nights and bad nights.