Seton Hall's 62-52 victory over Rutgers brought the Pirates a sweep of the season series with Rutgers, their first ever in Big East play. Seton Hall has now extended its winning streak to 7 games. They've added another road victory to their belt. And perhaps most importantly, they avoided a "bad loss" to Rutgers. The Pirates are peaking towards an invitation to the NCAA tournament. Wins against Villanova and West Viriginia at home would ensure Seton Hall of at least a 16-11 (10-6 Big East) regular season record. With a strong RPI to complement the strong late season record, the strong conference record, and quality wins over Top 10 Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, Seton Hall likely would need only a single win in the Big East Tournament to punch their ticket to the Show.
Meanwhile, the loss to Seton Hall, coupled with a Georgetown win over Providence, virtually ensured Rutgers a living room view of the Big East Tournament. Rutgers must beat Notre Dame Saturday at the RAC and then beat St. Johns at Madison Square Garden. Given recent developments, I have a better chance of winning a Pullitzer Prize. Perhaps not coincidentally, Rutgers last swept Seton Hall during the Pirate's notorious Fight Club 2000-2001 season. The similarities between the current Scarlet Knights and the South Orange Fight Club of recent years is amazing. Teammates fighting. A selfish leader. Factions in the locker room. Faint effort. No heart. It's very discouraging.
The loss was remarably similar to the previous defeat at the Meadowlands, whereby Seton Hall overcame a late 5-point deficit and closed the game on a 17-7 run to win an ugly, low scoring game 58-53. The rematch was more of the same. Seton Hall took the intitiative this time and opened an early 10-point lead that Rutgers spent the rest of the first half whittling. Rutgers blitzed Seton Hall with a 9-1 run to open the second half and seize its first lead, 34-32 with 16:30 remaining. Rutgers held the lead for much of the following 13 minutes. But the Knights failed to score during the final 3 minutes after tying the game at 52. The Pirates closed the game with a clinching 10-0 run.
Poor shooting, transition defense, defensive rebounding, and FT shooting were the primary causes of Rutgers first defeat at the hands of the Hall. The second defeat saw more of the same.
- Poor Shooting: Rutgers shot only 32% FGA for the game -- 30% in the first half and 32% in the second half. Rutgers again had difficulty scoring - only 25 points in the first and a marginally less worse 27 points in the second half. This game illustrates one of the prime reasons that Rutgers struggles to score points. Poor judgment is as big a factor as is natural shooting ability. Half of Coleman's 10 FGAs were bad shots. In that context, it isn't surprising that he made only 2 shots. In contrast, Shields took only 2 bad shots (in 10 FGAs), Herve took only one bad shot (in 12 FGAs), and Wooten took only one bad shot (in 7 FGAs).
Poor judgment was the major culprit in the first half. Twelve of the 33 FGAs that Rutgers attempted in the first half were 3PAs. They missed 10 3PAs, of which 8 were bad shots. Sr SG Jerome Coleman, as usual, set the tone with bad shots on all 4 of his 3PAs. His selfishness infected others as So SF Ricky Shields, Jr PG Mike Sherrod, So PG Juel Wiggan, and So SG Calvin Wooten each hoisted bad 3PAs.
Coleman played all but 30 seconds of the first half. After two assists in the first five minutes, it was bombs away. Coleman picked up his 4th foul with 13 minutes remaining in the second half. He sat the next 10 minutes. Coleman took only 3 shots in the second half. With Coleman not monopolizing the ball, the Scarlet Knights started to use dribble penetration. The Knights scored off of drives, mid-range jumpers, inside dishes, kickouts to the perimeter. After scoring only 2 points in the first half off of dribble penetration, Rutgers scored 13 points in the second half. Rutgers took only 2 bad shots in the second half - one belonging to Coleman and Herve's late 3-point brick. Rutgers took better shots in the second half. But their confidence was sagging by then.
Transition Defense: The impression that I had after watching the game was that Rutgers agains got smoked in transition. The statistics did not support that impression. After scoring over 20 transition points at the Meadowlands, the Pirates scored only 9 at the RAC. The reason that it seemed worse was that the Pirates were pushing the ball up the court. But Herve made a couple of saving blocks. Plus, the Pirates missed a few FTAs that resulted from transition fouls against Rutgers.
- Defensive Rebounding: Seton Hall dominated the backboard. Even though more rebounds were available on the Seton Hall defensive glass (because Rutgers shot more poorly), Seton Hall outscored Rutgers 13-6 in second-chance points. The Scarlet Knights grabbed only 50% of the rebounds off their defensive glass in the first half as Seton Hall built an early lead and then collected a still-unsatisfactory 61% in the second half as Seton Hall clawed to stay in a game that Rutgers had seized. Rutgers defensive rebounding problems were compounded by its offensive rebounding. The Pirates grabbed 80% of the rebounds off their defensive glass in the second half after grabbing only 61% in the first half. Rutgers was shooting better in the second half but Seton Hall's defensive rebounding dominance denied the Scarlet Knights extra shot attempts by then.
- Free Throw Shooting: At the Meadowlands, sloppy second-half FT shooting cost the Knights dearly. Rutgers was equally generous during the rematch, making only 13 of 31 FTAs. The usual suspects can't be blamed, either. Adrian Hill made 3 of 5 FTAs. Kareem Wright made 1 of 2 FTAs. Juel Wiggan made 3 of 4 FTAs. Jerome Coleman, a 75% FT shooter, made only 2 of 5 FTAs. As Rutgers struggled to maintain it's slim second half lead, too many possessions ended with a split from the FT line.