By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Rutgers (12-4, 3-2 Big East) defeated USF (9-7, 0-4 Big East) 70-67 at the RAC. Here’s what to take away from the game:
1. Paint job
At least in the first half. USF killed Rutgers in the paint in the first 20 minutes. 22 of the Bulls 30 first half points came in the paint. And it’s not like it was coming in transition on layups. It was USF beating Rutgers, whether it be a post up move, or a drive and dish, the Bulls were having their way in the lane. But Rutgers was able to tighten things up around the basket in the second half, with USF scoring just eight points in the paint. In turn, Rutgers completely flipped the script, scoring 24 of their 34 points in the paint in the second half.
2. Eli Carter starting to get out of a slump
Rutgers’ leading scorer was just 4-of-25 in the previous two games. He was struggling to find his shot as he was constantly double and triple teamed. Things got a bit better for Carter as he was 4-of-10 from the field for 13 points, hitting two critical shots in the last few minutes of the game.
3. Back over .500
Rutgers is back over .500 and remains in the top half of the Big East, or as they like to say, on the left side of the board. It’s critical that they did just that, with three of their next four games on the road against opponents who are in the top half of the conference. Not to mention that you don’t want to dig yourself into a hole in this league. And at 3-2 in the Big East, this is just the third squad in program history to do that and first since 1999-2000.
Rutgers has as quick and tough a turnaround as they’ll have all season with a 9 p.m. tip and having to travel out to South Bend, IN the follwoing morning to take on Notre Dame Saturday night.
“A classic Big East game. Neither team wanted to blink. Neither team wanted to give in. I thought we found a way to win.”
On being 3-2 in the Big East: “I care. I haven’t been 3-2 ever since I’ve been. It feels great. I just want to keep winning. That’s all I care about.”
“This game last year we probably would have lost so we’re showing how much more mature we are…We understand every game is going to be a dogfight. I really don’t like blowouts myself. They’re not fun.”