The maturation of Rutgers basketball continued tonight, as the Scarlet Knights stepped into the Petersen Center--one of the toughest places to play in college basketball--and slapped the Pittsburgh Panthers around. Dane Miller was the best player on the floor, helping Rutgers out rebound the best rebounding team in the nation.
And Rutgers defense was phenomenal, holding Pittsburgh to 13% shooting in the first half.
More after the jump...The story of this game is Rutgers' defense. Early on, they flustered the Pittsburgh offense, got in the passing lane and forced a ton of turnovers. They were in the air on every Panther miss and came down with the ball. Jerome Seagears went 3 of 3 on three point shots in the first half and really took the wind out of Pittsburgh's sails. Meanwhile, the predicted Big East Player of the Year, Ashton Gibbs, was held without a made shot until the 17:37 mark of the 2nd half.
Eli Carter lead the Scarlet Knights with 14 points, and he wasn't even on fire tonight. He took a lot of bad shots, but got to the rim and the free throw line when it mattered. Every time Rutgers needed a basket they got it. Every time they needed a stop, they got it. This was an all around great effort by the Scarlet Knights. Everyone, even Kadeem Jack, contributed. At one point, Jack took the ball in the lane for an easy lay-up. His athleticism is evident and will be a great help down the stretch.
The question that remains is how good is Pittsburgh? Rutgers looked really good tonight, but Pittsburgh--at 0-4 in the Big East--is beginning to look like a bad team. They are reeling right now and Rutgers took advantage. Early in the season, Rutgers would have played down to the Panthers' level and this would have been a back and forth affair. One that Pittsburgh may have found a way to win and get themselves some confidence.
That Rutgers was able to blow the doors off Pittsburgh is a sign of a blooming maturity. They have apparently learned from their USF and WVU mistakes. Now, RU travels to WVU with a shot to even the score. It's a 2 pm game on Saturday with a lot to play for. The Scarlet Knights are now 10-7 and 2-2 in the Big East. Lots of games left. Lots to start to root for.
This is a fun team to watch.