Their hands were in the passing lanes. They switched from zone to man and back again without flaw. They hustled, caused turnovers and got easy lay-ups. It's clear that when Rutgers plays defense with passion, they can compete with and beat anyone in the Big East.
And that's exactly what they did against the Bearcats last night.
More after the jump...Eli Carter broke out of his shooting slump in the second half and score 17 to pace the Scarlet Knights. He hit 4 three pointers, including a deep bomb with the shot clock running down. But, more importantly, he was able to move the ball around and didn't force shots. His points came within the flow of the offense, and when a shot wasn't there, he gave the ball up, even garnering 2 assists.
Dane Miller played an all around fantastic game, finishing with a double-double (10 points and 12 rebounds). He also played his stat filling style game, giving the ball up with five assists. He had two earth shattering dunks, and showed great body control on an attempted alley-oop from Myles Mack that he turned into a lay-up. Miller was on tonight, folks and showed again why, when he plays hard, it's a different team.
Overall, though, it was the defense that was the story of the game. They held Cincinnati to 36% shooting and 35% from beyond the arc. Sean Kilpatrick was frustrated for most of the night, only scoring 11 points. The Bearcats' best player was Yancy Gates, who, after being fed the ball early in the second half, helped put his team up 3 points. After a Mike Rice timeout, Rutgers' interior players adjusted on Gates and kept him ten feet from the basket instead of five. Gates' 16 points was enough to keep Rutgers defense focused on him and opened up Dion Dixon for an effect 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
In the postgame, Rice commented on Rutgers' toughness and said he hoped this win would lead to consistency from his team. It was his 100th career victory as a head coach, a stat he was apparently unaware of coming into the game. It will be interesting to see how this team responds to this win. If they do begin to show signs of consistency, they should defeat Providence, but Rutgers has never played well at the Dunkin Donuts Center, blowing a double-digit lead last year that would have put them over .500 at the end of the season.
But until then, the Knights can enjoy this victory. Cincinnati has been probably the best road team in the Big East the last two years. Mick Cronin's postgame comments were more about his team collapsing, and it was clear he didn't respect Rutgers team. He clearly thought this was a game he had to have. Check out what he had to say here.
Nevertheless, Rutgers is one win away from being .500 in the Big East. Last time that happened, they blew an 11 point lead to DePaul. Now, they have to dig in and give the same effort they gave last night and beat the Friars.