What. A. Game.
Forget, for a minute, the Mike Rosario storyline. The Scarlet Knights were down 7 points with 2 minutes to play. Mike Rice had called his last timeout, and the RAC exhaled. The crowd had been loud all night, hollering at Rosario, pleading for defense and cheering Eli Carter for playing beyond his freshman years. But now, the Knights were down 7, and it looked like it was going to be another "great effort," let's regroup for South Florida.
But Rutgers put on the press and forced turnovers. Carter and Myles Mack hit some clutch points, and we were headed to OT. And suddenly the RAC had a second life. And Mike Rosario was forgotten. It was all about the victory.
More after the jump...Eli Carter was a man among boys tonight. He dropped 31 points, each and every one of them needed. He shot 12 of 24, got to the FT line, hit 4 threes and showed why he is going to be a huge offensive player for Rutgers going forward. Jerome Seagears made play after play, rebounding misses and dropping in offensive lay-ups. And Mack was the player we thought he would be... hitting clutch 3s when he needed them.
The freshman guards combined for 58 of RU's 85 points. But Carter is the one who is going to stand out. He was able to get to the hoop at will. He made clutch shot after clutch shot. Bill Raftery called the game tonight, and he saw Carter display onions.
But, despite RU throwing hay maker after after hay maker, Florida would not go away. They hit big threes, they got to the hoop. Kenny Boyton scored 26 points, and drove Florida forward. The fact that Rutgers was able to hang in this game early, after being down 15-8 was a miracle. At times, it looked like the Gators were going to run RU off the floor.
But if there's anything Mike Rice's Scarlet Knights have shown the past two years, it's great resiliency. Rice showed the freshman the last few minutes of last year's scintillating win over Villanova before the game to get them to believe. Dane Miller was aggressive tonight, dropping in 16 points. This was a team effort. This is what the future holds for Rutgers.
As for Mike Rosario? The crowd got what it wanted. Rosario scored 5 points, and made several mistakes. He was also involved in a mid-game mini-scrum with Dane Miller that resulted in a double technical. The crowd chanted at him, booed at him and clearly got in his head. He only played 14 minutes and sat the last ten minutes of the regulation and the entire double overtime.
In the OT, it was the Carter and Mack show. Clutch shot after clutch shot. RU fans have a lot to look forward to for the next 3 and a half years.
This is a signature win. This is a top 5 game at the RAC. Now, the Scarlet Knights have to build on this. USF is a classic letdown game Sunday. But if the Knights want to make noise this year, it's a must-win.
But for the moment, allow yourself to breathe. Rutgers just won a classic.