PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers, 3-2 in Big East play for the first time in 12 years, has a lot to be proud of following tonight’s win over South Florida. In the words of senior Dane Miller, Rutgers yet again found victory in a game that normally goes down as a loss.
Beating the last-place Bulls 70-67 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the Scarlet Knights never closed out the lesser opponents, but gutted out an ugly win..
“I’m happy with this win, Because this game last year we probably would have lost,” Miller said. “It’s all [about] how more mature we are, how much closer we are together. We understand every game is going to be a dogfight. I really don’t like blowouts myself. They’re less fun.”
Sophomore guard Elijah Carter started returning to form, scoring 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, but will need his A-game against the Fighting Irish Saturday.
“He got off the ball very well tonight. … I still want him to attack . He’s still going to have those types of games. He’s only a sophomore, but I thought the second half he really did get off the ball and allow some other guys to make plays.”
Rutgers nursed a five-point lead for most of the second half, after Seagears hit a three to take the lead early. The dagger never came, as Rutgers had to sweat out a missed 3-point attempt by Martino Brock at the buzzer.
“Neither team wanted to blink neither team wanted to give in,” Rice said. “I thought we found a way to win and that was scoring in the paint. … We found a way in the second half to grind one out.”
Rutgers opened the half on a 13-4 run and did not look back. Lying dormant in a first half filled with struggles, Wally Judge broke out with 10 second-half points in his first career double-digit performance in Big East action.
Judge finished a team-high 14 points. Sophomore guard Myles Mack chipped in 13 of his own, reaching double figures for the third time in four games.
The win gives Rutgers (12-4, 3-2) its best Big East record since the 1999-2000 season and puts the Scarlet Knights in a multi-team tie for fourth place in the standings. After the excitement generated by St. John’s however, Rice is not going to stress the achievement.
“Ultimately, I have to stop thinking about it and talking to me team about it,” Rice said. “Let’s just go to the next game. Whatever we are the next 14 games, I think we’ll be satisfied if we just take that approach.”
The Big East becomes brutal for Rutgers moving forward, with games against Notre Dame, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Louisville on tap in the next three weeks.