Rutgers tops Seton Hall in a classic game
February, 25, 2012
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com
NEWARK, N.J. -- Sometimes games don't live up to a rivalry.
Saturday's contest between Seton Hall and Rutgers was not one of those games.
The Pirates and Scarlet Knights went toe to toe for 40 minutes, plus an extra five, in a 5 p.m. tip-off at a sold-out Prudential Center. And when it was all said and done, the underdogs from Piscataway had upset the favorites from South Orange, 77-72.
For Rutgers (13-16, 5-11 Big East), this snaps a brutal six-game losing streak, dating back to Feb. 1. For Seton Hall (19-10, 8-9), this puts the Pirates back on the NCAA tournament bubble, depending on who you ask.
"This is a hard one. This is tough. Disappointing on many levels," said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard. "But I give them a lot of credit, they made some big shots, made some good plays."
This was a seesaw affair, with the lead changing hands 18 different times, plus nine tie scores. Seton Hall led by four at the half, Rutgers took a six-point lead in the second half, and the game wound up in overtime.
In the end, the final outcome came down to two plays. With the score tied at 72, Rutgers freshman guard Jerome Seagears buried a 3-pointer from the left corner with 13.2 seconds remaining. And on the ensuing possession, Seton Hall senior guard Jordan Theodore saw his game-tying attempt from beyond the arc go in and out.
"It was just that type of night for me tonight," said Theodore, who scored a team-high 17 points but shot just 4-for-14 from the field. "But I can't take nothing away from Rutgers. They came in here, they played really hard. They had some players step up for them tonight."
They certainly did. Seagears (16 points, six assists) and fellow freshman guard Eli Carter (17 points) were both potent from the perimeter. Sophomore forward Gilvydas Biruta also chipped in 16 points and seven boards.
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireDane Miller had his best game of the season Saturday night against Seton Hall.
But the player of the game was junior swingman Dane Miller, who erupted for a season-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, with 16 of his points coming after intermission.
"Outstanding," said Rutgers coach Mike Rice, when asked about Miller's performance. "He was the best athlete on the floor, and he should be that every single night, to be honest with you."
Miller, who made the Big East All-Rookie team as a freshman two years ago, has turned into an enigma this season -- the rare player who is too unselfish, taking just 5.7 shots and averaging just 7.1 points per game, even though he is probably the most talented player on his team.
But Miller looked like a totally different player in the second half on Saturday, taking the ball to the basket time and time again.
"That's sometimes the frustrating part of Dane Miller," Rice said. "I'm always a glass-half-full guy. … But you just never know with Dane."
"He wants me to be aggressive and shoot the ball," Miller said of his coach. "Sometimes I find myself passing the ball too much, and really try to get my teammates the ball. That's something that I really wanna do, and I love doing that. So I just came out and tried to mix it up with both. It was definitely fun."
It was not fun for Seton Hall, however -- especially on Senior Night, the final home game for Theodore and forward Herb Pope (14 points, 12 rebounds), both of whom have had outstanding senior seasons.
"It's tough to lose on Senior Night. But really they just took it from us," said Theodore. "We couldn't get a stop to save our lives. Couldn't get a rebound, we couldn't get a loose ball. It felt like they were just a half-step faster than us tonight, and really, they outplayed us."
Take a look at the box score, and you'll understand why Theodore felt that way. Rutgers shot 29-for-55 from the field (52.7 percent), an astounding 10-for-15 from 3-point range (66.7 percent), and didn't miss a single shot in overtime.
Miller said the Scarlet Knights desperately wanted to avenge their 59-54 loss to Seton Hall in Piscataway earlier this month, and also wanted to try to spoil Seton Hall's chances of making the Big Dance.
"Before we left, we had a little meeting with the players about that," Miller said. "We sent text messages out last night about spoiling that chance."
The truth is, with an RPI in the low 30s, Seton Hall still has a good chance to make the field of 68, despite this loss. But the pressure is officially on to win the regular season finale at DePaul next Saturday.
"Obviously it hurts us," Willard said. "But we've still got another conference game. … We've gotta win on the road on Saturday."
As for the Scarlet Knights? They've put an end to a brutal stretch, and have two very winnable home games (Villanova, St. John's) left on the schedule.
"Not winning a game in the month of February, a lot of times you pack it in, you start to feel sorry for yourself," Rice said. "They grinded it out. And it was a great win."