Bigger than the return of any player, the Rutgers basketball team ended 2011 with a double-overtime victory over the No. 10 team in the country.
Storming the court for the second time in 2011, a last-second defensive stand and 31 points from freshman guard Elijah Carter showed the 7,855 fans in attendance what this class is all about — inconsistency and excitement.
“I watched all these young guys play so many times,” said head coach Mike Rice. “I knew they had it in them, but in a moment like tonight, especially since I just watched [Florida] dominate Texas A&M, I watched them dominate Florida State. They had a will, they had a determination.”
Carter and freshman guard Myles Mack each hit incredibly clutch shots in the double overtime period and finished with a combined for 15 points in the two extra periods.
“I had no doubt who I was giving the ball to and what play I was going [with],” Rice said. “...It was good to have. I really didn’t have that last year. ... I got somebody that I’m confident that’s going to make something happen.”
During that time, former Rutgers guard Mike Rosario simply sat on the bench and watched what was an all-too-familiar sight from his perspective during his time at Rutgers.
Rutgers out-scored Florida 26-12 while Rosario was on the court. The former face of Rutgers scored just five points in 14 minutes.
“I just guarded him the way he was supposed to guard him and he didn’t really do that well,” said Mack, who knows Rosario from his high-school days at St. Anthony’s. “Good luck to him in the future.”
But in what Rice called a “classy move,” Rosario made his way to the locker room after a crushing loss to personally congratulate the team on a well-fought victory.
“That’s big,” said junior forward Dane Miller. “My freshman year a lot of people probably thought he was a little immature, but that shows he is more mature. That was big for him to do that.”
To motive Rutgers, Rice showed his team video highlights of the last win over a No. 10 team, the win over Villanova last season.
“Our freshmen’s faces lit up,” Rice said. “This is what happens when you believe. This is what happens when you don’t think the impossible is impossible. This is what happens when young men are determined to follow the formula and play for one-another.”
Though that was a conference win, the difference is that Florida means Rutgers (8-5) is coming off its biggest win of the year to start Big-East play in the New Year.
Starting with South Florida next week, forward momentum could not have come at a better time for the Scarlet Knights.