Stepping It Up
Clutch play highlights crucial Rutgers win, 75-72, over Boston College
A few minutes into the Scarlet Knights' contest with Boston College, star shooting guard Jerome Coleman was rolling on the floor in great pain, trying to shake off an inadvertent elbow to the face from BC forward Louis Hinnant. The air came out of the Rutgers Athletic Center, as Rutgers fans watched one of their team's most prized weapons stagger from the court like a weary boxer. With Boston College on a hot streak and Troy Bell flashing his talent, Boston College would be difficult to beat on a normal day, let alone when the leading Knight was trying to shake off a ringing blow to the head.
But Rutgers found other weapons Saturday.
Coleman was relatively ineffective for most of the game, going scoreless in the first half and finishing with only six points. He also spent a large stretch of the second half saddled with four fouls. But Rutgers picked up key contributions from freshman guard Calvin Wooten and forward Ricky Shields, and Herve Lamizana posted what might be the best performance of his career in leading the Knights past Boston College 75-72.
The Eagles attempted to force the Knights into rushing their half-court offensive set by employing a full-court press for most of the game. While the press did run seven or eight seconds off the shot clock on each possession, Rutgers wasn't particularly troubled by the strategy, hitting perimeter shots and moving the ball around effectively in building a first half lead. Rutgers used their trademark press and half-court man-to man in an attempt to hold Bell and Ryan Sydney at bay. They also rotated a number of players in the middle and made a concerted effort to put a body on surprising 6-foot-7 Eagle freshman forward Craig Smith. While Smith was frustrated by the defensive effort, Boston College countered with a red-hot Bell and a 64% shooting mark from the floor to storm back to a 6 point halftime lead, 43-37. The damage was lessened by a torrid streak from Wooten, who hit for 11 points from the perimeter in the first half.
Coleman left the game with just under 19 minutes remaining in the second half after back to back fouls, the first on an offensive charge and the second on the ensuing defensive possession as he inexplicably fouled Bell as the BC guard connected on a three-pointer. After Bell completed the four-point play, Boston College had extended their lead to nine points. Sophomore forward Ricky Shields immediately answered for the Knights, drilling a 24-foot three-pointer to trim the lead. The Eagles built the lead back to eight points before Shields again connected from long-range, drilling a second 24-foot three-pointer from the right wing to pull RU within five. After a point blank miss, Shields jogged back down the court, called for the ball, and nonchalantly drilled a shot from one stride in front of the large Scarlet "R" that graces the court about thirty feet from the basket. It was a twenty-six foot shot that electrified the RAC, left a bewildered defender to ponder his misfortune, and pulled Rutgers to within two points.
The contest swung back and forth throughout the second half, with several ties and lead changes. The game was knotted at 68 with 2:56 remaining, but Lamizana put on a beautiful shake and bake move in the low post that baffled Craig Smith and put RU up 70-68. Ryan Sidney hit 1-of-2 foul shots at the other end to shave the Rutgers lead to 70-69. After a Rutgers shot clock violation and a Sean Axani foul, Bell sank two free throws to put BC ahead 71-70 with under two minutes remaining. Jerome Coleman, who had begun to come out of his fog a few minutes earlier with a three-pointer, scored on a pretty scoop move to give the Knights a 72-71 lead. Both teams traded misses, and BC held the ball with 35 seconds remaining. Troy Bell broke into the open court and appeared to find a BC player wide open on a breakaway, but Mike Sherrod tipped the ball away on a spectacular defensive play, then recovered the ball and called a timeout.
Ryan Sidney was called for a hold of Herve Lamizana on the inbound, putting Lamizana at the line. The junior forward hit one of two shots to extend the Knights' lead to 73-71. Lamizana fouled Smith with 21 seconds remaining and Smith headed to the line with the Eagles trailing by two points. But Smith hit only one of two to leave B.C. trailing 73-72 and forced the Eagles to foul Kareem Wright, who had rebounded the last miss. Wright made one foul shot to give the Knights a 74-72 lead, and BC called a timeout. Troy Bell missed a mid-range jumper, and on the ensuing inbound, Eagles forward Andrew Bryant appeared to shake free to the far side of the basket, although Herve Lamizana was in position to defend if Bryant received the ball. Lamizana, however, didn't have to defend, as the inbound pass ticked the net and caromed off Bryant's hands for a turnover. Jerome Coleman was fouled with 0.6 remaining, sank one of two free throws to put the Knights ahead 75-72, and Mike Sherrod knocked away the inbound pass to seal the win.
- Rutgers solved two problems that have been crippling them all season long. They shot 47% from the floor, including 56% from three-point range, and connected on 82% of their free throws. Kareem Wright was a surprising 5-for-6
- Lamizana finished with an astounding stat line: 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals, and a whopping 7 assists. Mike Sherrod had 5 assists and 5 steals against only 3 turnovers.
- Adrian Hill continues to shake off rust. He played only 6 minutes and finished with no points, one block, and one rebound. Jason McCoy did not play and appears to be losing minutes to Hill.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
- Who was at fault for the exchange between Lamizana and Boston College center Nate Doornekamp that resulted in the ejection of Watson? No one, really, or both, if you would prefer. Lamizana and Doornekamp battled for the ball. Initially, Lamizana had better position inside, but Doornekamp reached higher, grabbing the ball but tangling arms with Lamizana. In doing so, Doornekamp's arm raked the side of Lamizana's head as the two players came down. Doornekamp wrestled the ball away and Lamizana swiped his arm behind his head near where he thought the ball was. His elbow hit the back of Doornekamp's neck. Doornekamp attempted to go back up for a put-back and Lamizana, now standing behind the BC center, tried to reach around Doornekamp's head with both arms to grab the ball. He missed the ball and ended up wrapping his arms around Doornekamp's face. The two players turned to face each other and began to jaw, at which point Wright had already been whistled for a foul and officials separated the two. The conclusion? Just aggressive post play in a heated contest.
- Who was the unidentified man in the hooded sweatshirt that left the court with Watson as he was ejected? Was he a friend or someone in the stands who became involved?
- Why didn't Troy Bell put the ball on the floor more aggressively and try to draw a fifth foul from Coleman, who had been reinserted late in the second half and had just drilled a three-point shot?
GAME IN A NUTSHELL
Rutgers played well on defense and rode a hot player (Lamizana). They also made clutch shots and received key contributions from Wooten and Shields. They won a critical Big East game at home with limited contributions from their top offensive scorer. They played BC even in turnovers and rebounding, and surprisingly outshot the Eagles from the line. They did a strong job of penetrating and drawing fouls.
Herve Lamizana- An All-Everything game for the lanky forward, as he dumped in 22 points to go with 8 rebounds and 7 assists. He excelled in all facets and showed a stunning array of offensive moves: perimeter shots, low post turnarounds, put-backs, and mid-range jumpers.
Interior Defense- Axani, Wright, Lamizana, and Hill combined to frustrate BC's star freshman forward Craig Smith, denying the Eagles their only interior weapon. When the outside shooting went cold for BC in the second half, the upset was on.
Ricky Shields- stepped up his game precisely when the team needed it, with Coleman on the bench in the second half.
In the second half:
16:05- BC forward Craig Smith blows a seven foot bank shot, which is rebounded by Kareem Wright.
15:57- Shields' monstrous three-pointer grazes the back rim and rips the twine.
15:32- Officials whistle Kareem Wright for a reach-in foul on Boston College center Nate Doornekamp. Lamizana and Doornekamp get tangled up and the heated exchange prompts Eagle guard Jermaine Watson to venture off the bench. Several minutes later, Watson is escorted from the court by security personnel, costing BC coach Al Skinner a critical part of his guard rotation.
In just over a half minute, the Knights dodged an easy shot that would have extended the BC lead to seven, get a three-pointer from Shields to pull within two, and bid farewell to an opposing player that had accounted fro seven points in just over a half. The price? On foul on Kareem Wright and one of two made foul shots from Doornekamp.