By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Rutgers and Seton Hall renewed their rivalry with the Scarlet Knights winning round one 57-55-??. Here’s what to take away from the game:
1. Juiceless rivalry
Fans shouldn’t normally be expected to show up for a game featuring two teams that were on a combined 11-game losing streak. But it is still the best college basketball rivalry in the Garden State. It didn’t feel like it in a lifeless RAC. As for the play on the court, Austin Johnson joked that Herb Pope was a big reason for things being so chippy in this rivalry. And he was right. Not nearly as much bad blood between these two teams as in recent years.
2. Going deep
Bruised and battered Seton Hall has a diminished bench, and it was pretty clear Mike Rice wanted to take advantage of it. Rice went 12 deep, with 11 playing in the first half. Derrick Randall and Malick Kone saw more time than they normally do and even seldom used Vincent Garrett got a run in the first half.
3. Johnson leading the bigs
Austin Johnson has been Rutgers’ most consistent player in the front court. He also has quietly – and surprisingly – emerged as Rutgers best big man. Johnson put in another solid effort with eight points and four rebounds. Now the rest of the bigs just have to follow suit.
Dane Miller has now scored over 1,000 points in his career, becoming the 39th player in school history to do so.
“We’re certainly not going to ship this one off to the Hall of Fame anytime soon, but as my daughter told me today when I asked her ‘Katie, what’s the key to the game tonight?’ she very candidly said, ‘Score more points, Dad.’ That’s the object, and we did that.”
On Mike Poole’s end-of-game steal: “I forgot to hug Mike in the locker room – I apologize, Mike Poole. That’s huge. He could have gotten angry at his teammates, and he could have gotten down. He could have been like the coaches who were all flabbergasted, but he didn’t and he went to the next play, and he made a winning play for his team. I give Mike a lot of credit. That’s the mental toughness I expect from a junior captain.
“Dane [Miller] likes to play against us. I always like to see Dane; he always likes to save his one three-pointer in Big East play for us. I’m sure he’ll have another one late in the game [next time].
“Me and my teammates were joking early, we feel like in the last two minutes at the RAC, people are shooting 100%. They always seem to make three-pointers or long distance shots. So that was the longest two minutes of my life and I just wanted the game to be over.”
On 1,000 career points “I didn’t know I got it until the guy at the table said congratulations and I still didn’t know what he was talking about.”