They must have put a scare into the Wildcats and their fans. Rutgers came into the game undermanned, still reeling from a UNC beatdown, and took a 4 point lead at halftime.
Unfortunately, the Scarlet Knights couldn't contain Corey Stokes and Corey Fischer in the second half, the fouls piled up, and Rutgers lack of depth really showed.
More after the jump...The first half was a glimpse into what Rutgers will be in the future. The switching defense worked exactly how they wanted it to. Stokes was kept in check with only 2 points. RU was closing out on Nova's 3 point shooters. They were controlling the pace. Dane Miller scored 11 points, including a monstrous dunk and a foul.
But Gilvydas Biruta and Austin Johnson were strapped with foul trouble early--and since Robert Lumpkins is still missing with what's being deemed "personal issues" one could really see Rutgers' depth come into play. The Scarlet Knights were stretched thin. Austin Carroll was relegated to the bench with ice wrapped around his knee.
The first five minutes of the second half--however--belonged to the Coreys. Villanova went on an 11-0 run to start the half. Rutgers got their equilibrium back, and battled, but the Wildcats' 3 point shooting remained hot, and they were eventually able to push the lead to 12. The fouls piled up and Rutgers players began to sit the bench.
It was over after the that.
Well, until the final minute of play. In a series of events that may be talked about until the next Rutgers game, Gilvydas Brirute took a "swing" at Dominic Cheek after a rebound. What appeared to happen in the replay was this: Biruta went up for a rebound, but was boxed out by Cheek, who grabbed at Biruta's shorts. As Biruta pushed through the crowd, he swung a closed fist behind him, and either BARELY or NEARLY made contract with Cheek's face. A foul was called--Biruta's 5th. He'd fouled out.
But the refs decided to look at the tape, and saw Biruta swing and called him for a flagrant foul. He was ejected. Now, I'm not sure of the rules after this and Mike Rice--in the radio postgame--said they'd have to talk to the league, but will Biruta be suspended for a game? The refs--he said--never called it a punch or a fight, which has to play in RU's favor.
Either way, Rutgers fans have to be impressed with the effort, and hope it continues at home with Marquette and Providence on the horizon.