Jonathan Mitchell stepped up.
After Jeremy Hazell hit a three point shot to tie the game and send it into overtime. Mitchell and the rest of the team took a deep breath. And they came out and played smart basketball. They went to work and gutted out a HUGE win.
Mitchell scored 25 points in one of his best performances of the year. He constantly got to the free throw line as Rutgers was able to foul out Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope. He hit a giant 3 with 26 seconds left in regulation to give Rutgers the lead. He took the ball at Pope in overtime. He didn't settle for jump shots. And even when the ball wasn't going down, the team did not panic.
Rutgers defense was fantastic in the second half. In the last seven minutes of the game, they held Seton Hall to one basket: Hazell's tying 3 pointer. Both teams only had one field goal in overtime. But Mitchell hit eight of ten from the line. James Beatty also had a solid game, scoring 12 points and giving the Scarlet Knights their first lead in overtime. Mike Coburn and all the starters stepped up today. Dane Miller pulled down an impressive 11 rebounds.
Gilvydas Biruta also put in twelve points, and was also involved in the most bizarre play of the game (and what's a Rutgers-Seton Hall battle without a strange play?). During overtime, Biruta pulled down a key rebound and was surround by two Pirates. Biruta twisted and tried to clear the defenders and was fouled. After the play, the officials went to the media desk to watch the replay. They decided that Biruta had swung his elbows and called him for a technical foul. It was also his fifth personal.
Robert Lumpkins came in and hit one of two free throws.
The Scarlet Knights were able to make key plays when they needed them and ultimately played smarter basketball. Free throw shooting was key, as Rutgers (mostly) made theirs and Seton Hall didn't.
Rutgers-mainly James Beatty-were able to force several turnovers in overtime as the team pulled away late. Overall this was a classic rivalry match-up.
The Scarlet Knights face St. John's tomorrow at 2 (ish) on ESPN.
Keys to that game after the jump....Take Care of the Ball... In the first match-up between these two teams, Rutgers had 23 turnovers--including 15 in the first half. If the Scarlet Knights are the have any chance, they have to take care of the ball. If RU is fumbling away possessions, a confident Red Storm team will punish Rutgers. If the press is wearing the Knights down, they're going to be in trouble as well. Turnovers will be evident then. Rutgers will have to break the press as smoothly as possible.
Get Quality Minutes Off the Bench... Rutgers plays only 9 scholarship players, and often, there's a fall off in play when the starters come out. That can't happen tomorrow. Rutgers is going to be drained after a tough battle today, and they're going to need Mike Poole, Austin Johnson, Austin Carroll, and Robert Lumpkins to produce. As this is a home game for St. John's, you can expect a lot of fouls to go against Rutgers--specifically Biruta. He's going to be needed at the end of this game, so Johnson's going to have to play his best game of the year.
Slow the Red Storm... Defensive transition is going to be huge in this game. In each of their last several games, RU has gone through long scoring droughts. So far, the Knights have been able to survive these droughts and stay in games. But SJU loves to run and get easy buckets. RU will have to get back on defense and rebound.
Contain Dwight Hardy... Hazell had a fantastic game today. Hardy has been one of the league's best players, and Rutgers is going to have to throw the kitchen sink at him defensively. If you can contain him and make other players beat you, you'll have a better chance.
Score... As silly as it sounds, everyone is going to have step up again. Defenses have been focusing on Mitchell, so he's going to have to continue to attack the basket. Biruta's going to need to take it at Justin Brownlee and get to the line. It'd be nice if Mike Coburn's floater from the foul line falls a well.
Put Seton Hall in the rearview mirror.... The season's not over yet. Forget failure and success. Keep playing.
Other thoughts on the first round of the Big East tournament...
-DePaul was not good. Their did not seem to run an offense and were chucking up three's. Meanwhile, Kemba Walker was patient and set up his teammates. His points did eventually come, and UConn had the easiest game today.
-Villanova is squarely on the bubble. South Florida played an amazing second half and got some really lucky breaks. Everything they needed to happen did and USF pulled off a huge upset in the other most exciting game of the day.
-Providence needs to learn how to play defense. And Keno Davis might be looking for a new employer.