By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Rutgers (10-3, 1-1 Big East) had their Big East home opener against No. 24 Pitt (12-3, 0-2 Big East), winning the game 67-59. Here’s what to take away from the game:
1. Familiar Foes.
As an assistant coach under Jamie Dixon from 2006-07 along with associate head coach David Cox, Mike Rice knows Pitt. And it shows. Last year, the Scarlet Knights went up and romped the Panthers. Two years ago, Rutgers had No. 2 Pitt on the ropes at the RAC. Rice knows Dixon’s system, and clearly knows how to stop it.
2. Seagears starts.
It was Jerome Seagears first start since the season opener against St. Peter’s, taking the place of Eli Carter, who Rice said didn’t start due to a “minor violation of team rules.” While the stats don’t jump off the page (seven points, six assists and four rebounds), Seagears had his best game of the season by far. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound sophomore point guard was all over the court, and dictating a lot of Rutgers’ offense with the ball in his hands a lot.
3. Tale of two halves.
A Jekyll and Hyde performance is nothing new for Rutgers. They blew an 18 point lead against Boston University to hold on and win by one and let Iona cut a 22 point deficit to one before winning that game. It was no different for the Scarlet Knights today. Up by 14 through the first 20 minutes, Rutgers started the second half 0-of-8 and turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes, scoring just six points in the first 12 minutes.
This is the fourth win over a top 25 opponent for Rutgers under Rice. The other three were No. 9 Villonova (2/20/11), No. 10 Florida (12/29/11) and No. 8 UConn (1/7/12). All four wins have come at the RAC.
“I certainly would like to bottle that first half. What it came down to was stops, rebounding the miss and finishing the possession. And now our players are good in transition. In the second half we just didn’t get enough stops to get out in transition. We had a couple steals at the end to help us. That’s how I want to play. I want to play aggressive man to man defense or a zone, and get out and run. When we get stops we can do that.
On Carter off the bench: “He certainly brings a punch to us. In that 17, 16, 15 minute mark, guys are starting to get tired, the opposing team is starting to get a little winded, and then he comes in and does what he does.”
“The sky is the limit for us. We tune in one day, we beat a nationally ranked team and when we get off our game we lose bad. It’s the up and downs. We just have to find a way to even it out.”
On Dane Miller: “He’s always been able to do that. He’s a talented individual. Far more talented then maybe even he knows…He can do that every game.”
On the 11 a.m. tip: “I was up at 7 o’clock like I was in high school getting up for class. I never got up that early since I’ve been in college.”