Eli Carter tried to drive to the hoop, but instead drove into a double team. And time was running out. Rutgers was down 58-57 and there were only seconds remaining, both on the shot clock and the game clock. The crucial possession for Rutgers had gone poorly and Carter knew he had only one chance. Flip a floater toward the hoop and pray.
The ball rimmed out.
Thank God for Dane Miller. The junior, who's been on a run of great play over the past four games, flew in from out of no where, grabbed the ball with one hand and slammed it home.
Rutgers had the lead with with about 9 seconds left. The game was certainly not over.
More after the jump...
The contest was not a pretty one. Marred with fouls, turnovers, and just plain ragged play, no one was able to grab a lead larger than 5 points. Overall there were 40 fouls called. Rutgers was able to take advantage at the line, shooting 16-21. The Red Storm, however, were only able to go 10-22.
In a nice move, Mike Rice started senior walk-ons Mike Kuhn and Charlie Rigoloso. They played about a minute and a half, and Rigoglioso pulled down and key early rebound. A good start.
Still, St. John's was able to put a major scare into Rutgers. Though the Scarlet Knights had saddled 3 of the Johnnies with 4 fouls (and SJU is a thin team--only 6 scholarship players), the Knights couldn't take advantage. Rutgers young guards started to settle for jump shots again. Meanwhile, D'Angelo Harrison didn't settle for jump shots. He settled for bombs. And hit two in a row to give St. John's a 5 point lead.
Myles Mack was able to answer twice, with bombs of his own. Though he only shot 2-6 (all 3 pointers), the two he made were huge and pulled Rutgers back to with in a possession and then gave them the lead. Jerome Seagears had a quiet night on the stat sheet, but was still solid as he grows into the point guard position. No turnovers. Eli Carter paced the Knights with 15 points.
Including two to seal it.
After Miller's dunk, Harrison brought the ball up and took another bomb from the same spot he'd hit the two earlier. This one hit the corner of the rim, and was tapped out of bounds by a St. John's player. On the ensuing inbound, Carter was fouled and hit two free throws. Once again Harrison got the ball and with 2.6 seconds (about the time the refs should have been walking off the court had karma existed), and heaved a half court shot. It hit the front of the rim, garnered an "oooh" from the crowd, and sailed safely to the ground.
Rutgers won. They finished 14-17 overall and 6-12 in the Big East. One more Big East win than last year. Improvement.
Now it's on to the Big East Tournament. Rutgers is the 11th seed, the highest seed they've been since the league switched to a 16 team format. Consensus seems to be Rutgers grabbed the best seed they could and will be facing teams they can beat.
First up is Villanova, Tuesday night at 9 or 9:30. A team that shot the lights out in the first half just the other night. The Scarlet Knights will have extra motivation for that one. Nothing to lose. So play loose.
The second season is about to begin.