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Rutgers Handles Notre Dame, Best Big East Start since 2003-04

Dane Miller and Austin Johnson played like upper classmen. Mike Poole was clutch in the first half. The Scarlet Knights survived the last five minutes of the game while only scoring 1 field goal.

And according to multiple news reports, Rutgers found a new rallying cry.

Get to the left side of the board.

Find out what that means and more after the jump....

According to Brendan Prunty, one of the Rutgers managers looked at the board of Big East standings--one that is split in two, top eight on the left, bottom eight on the right--and told Mike Rice that he'd never seen Rutgers on the left side of the board. Rice shared this with his team. He kept telling them it was time to get to the left side.

The upper classmen took notice. Johnson scored 10 points, able to beat his man to the glass for some great lay-ups, including one off a fantastic behind-the-back pass from Eli Carter. Miller, meanwhile, only scored 5 points, but stuffed the stat sheet else where. 8 points, 4 blocks, and 2 assists. Miller dominated the game, playing like a point forward and facilitating the offense.

Meanwhile, the trio of freshman guards, weren't flashy. Instead they were solid. Jerome Seagears controlled the tempo, scored ten points, including some crucial free throws at the end of the game. Carter scored 13, and broke ND's back with a second half 3 after ND had cut into the lead. Myles Mack still showed a knack for getting to the rim.

Overall, this was the kind of game that shows vast improvement. The second half seemed like a replay of the LSU game, but this time RU was able to hang on. The team ground it out on the defensive end, forcing the best Assist to Turnover team in the Big East to into turnovers. In the first half, RU's defense swarmed, switched, and stifled ND. In the second half, they let the Fighting Irish get close, but never relinquished the lead.

A step in the right direction.

Now the question becomes: What does Rutgers do with this? After the last big win, the Knights went on the road and beat a reeling Pittsburgh team. On Saturday, the Knights face top ten Georgetown in DC. A road win here would show the Scarlet Knights are for real, and they would come home to face DePaul--a beatable team.

A loss to Georgetown is likely, and honestly, expectations of an NCAA bid are at least a year away. But this team is growing and fun to watch. The next 3 games will really show how much the Knights have grown, and if the team can expect an exciting end of the season.

Time will tell.