It was year two of the ultimately disastrous Mike Rice era, and there was optimism on the banks. After a competitive and exciting year 1, Rice had brought in a seven man freshman class that everyone thought would have the Scarlet Knights dancing and quickly. The season got off to a rough and tumble start as the seven freshman struggled to adjust to the pace of the game. This team had just two juniors and not a single senior on it.
So the excitement of the season was waning just a little bit as Rutgers had limped out to a 7-5 start. The team had losses to Miami, Illinois State, Richmond, Louisiana State and Princeon. Not exactly the best losses.
But, on a sudden 3 game win streak, there was a little bit of buzz back. But much of that had to do with the opponent. The nationally ranked, Bill Donovan coached Florida Gators were rolling into Jersey in late December. They were ranked tenth in the nation.
Oh, and former Rutgers player Mike Rosario had transferred there.
Even though the season had started in disappointing fashion, Rutgers fans were not going to pass up an opportunity to show Rosario how they felt about him leaving. And they were loud, booing him every time he touched the ball.
Meanwhile, the freshman weren’t playing like freshman. Eli Carter and Myles Mack were electric—Carter racked up 31 points the entire game. But, it didn’t look like Rutgers was going to pull it out. There were down 7 points with about two minutes left—the gas had run out.
Except it hadn’t. Rutgers came storming back. And then Carter and Mack were incredible in overtime.
This is still the best game at the RAC I’ve ever been to—particularly because it came with a lot of hope. It looked like Rutgers was pointing up at the time and they followed it up at the RAC with another top ten win over UConn weeks later.
Why bring it up now?
Well, on Thursday night, the Big Ten Network is airing this game again for Rutgers Day. It will be on at 9:30 pm. It’s a classic RAC game, and one I haven’t seen in 9 years. I remember considering the most exciting game I’d been to up to that point. The moments of the game are hazy to me, so I can’t wait to watch it again.
I remember Rosario not having a good game and really getting it from the crowd on a turnover. I remember Mack hitting a deep three and holding up 3 fingers in overtime. I remember Eli Carter and Dane Miller trying to get the crowd into it early.
But, memory is weird, and my mind may have made those moments up just to keep the game in my head. I can’t wait to watch this game again to see what of my memory is real. Florida had a really good team that year, and Rutgers appeared to be on its way.
We all know it never happened the way we wanted it to—at least not until Steve Pikiell came on board. But it will be fun to revisit this one.
For nostalgia’s sake.
I look forward to hearing Bob Wischusian saying, “And Rutgers! Has done it!” once more.
Like I said on this site late in 2011—what a game.