This was the night Eli Carter became the human highlight reel. Myles Mack started to look like a clutch player. And Mike Rosario faded into the ether for Rutgers fans. The last vestige of the Fred Hill era was gone.
And new era of highlights had begun....
Reminders after the jump...Here's the thing, when you have season tickets for Rutgers basketball, you always get one. That one game that reminds you why you buy the tickets, why you make the trek to the RAC, and why--even when the team is terrible--you still have hope each time you walk through those doors and get that first whiff of buttered popcorn.
Rutgers played Florida during Christmas week. It was the last game before the Big East season. RU had been up and down, the offense sputtering, then exploding, then sputtering again. It was starting to look like one of those seasons. And with former RU player Rosario coming to town, it didn't look good for Rutgers.
Most fans just wanted to hang with them, see Rosario screw up a couple of times, and go home drained. A heartbreakng loss would somehow be.... heartening.
And the first 37 minutes or so followed the script. RU went back and forth with the Gators and then suddenly found themselves down 7. But they rallied. Rallied to tie.
And there was something about Eli Carter. He was getting in the lane. He was pump faking and hitting shots. He made lay-ups. He got to the free throw line.
You wanted to watch this kid. Wanted him to have the ball.
Rutgers hung around in OT too, the first one that is. But with 18 seconds left, they were trailing again. But Carter knocked another one down. 31 points for the game.
In the second OT, it became the Myles Mack show. He was hitting threes. Open threes. Threes from deep. Carter's confidence had worn off on him as well.
He hit the game winner.
And then Erving Walker missed a little floater, and suddenly the game was over.
The RAC was roaring. The students stormed the court.
And it was the highlight of the season (a season that had a lot more highlights to come, too, just not enough.)
And, looking back, I think--in the 10 years I've had season tickets--it was probably the best game I've been to. It was certainly my college highlight for sure.