Presence on offensive glass keeps RU in game
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Going up against the vaunted 2-3 zone of No. 17 Syracuse, the Rutgers men's basketball team knew that any chance of leaving the Carrier Dome with a victory meant crashing the boards on the offensive glass.
And in the game's early going, that is exactly what the Scarlet Knights did.
The Knights gathered six offensive rebounds in the first six minutes of play in their 84-80 overtime loss and finished with 15 total offensive boards.
"In the first half especially, we did a good job getting second and third opportunities," said head coach Mike Rice. "So it's just with our lack of physicality and depth … we're just going to keep swinging."
Freshman forward Gilvydas Biruta and sophomore wing Dane Miller led the way for Rutgers on the glass, with each grabbing four offensive and four defensive rebounds.
"It's tough to match up on the defensive glass [against Syracuse]," Biruta said. "But on offensive [end] it has its advantages because they can't really box you out [in the zone]."
Senior forward Jonathan Mitchell finished just behind the duo with seven total rebounds.
But the three did not receive much help, as the rest of the team combined for just eight rebounds.
"I ask [my guards] to do everything, but they got one defensive rebound," Rice said. "So if you want to win, Mike Coburn and James Beatty, you rebound. And it's as simple as that."
While Rice wants to see his guards rebounding figures increase, one statistic he would like to see diminish is the amount of times the opposing team gets to the free throw line.
Rutgers committed a total of 30 fouls, resulting in 47 free throw attempts for Syracuse. The Orange turned that into 34 points from the charity stripe.
The Knights only earned 14 trips to the free throw line, converting on nine for a 64 percent clip.
The gap between the amounts of free throws for both teams can largely be attributed to the difference in defensive styles. But Rice remained skeptical that that was the only factor.
"It's going to be a disparity because of our formula," Rice said. "But that one does seem awful high. But again, it's Big East referees and they are supposedly the best in the country."
The Big East's Preseason Freshman of the Year, Fab Melo, is officially in Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim's doghouse.
The highly touted center saw his playing time diminish as the season progressed, going from a starter to a minor bench role.
Against Rutgers, Melo saw the court for a mere four seconds of game time. In those four seconds midway through the first half, the center hacked Biruta, who made the bucket and the subsequent free throw for a 3-point play.
Boeheim sent Melo to the bench for good immediately after.