PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Seton Hall gave Rutgers the ultimate gift in the final minutes of an ugly game tonight at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
With the Pirates slowly pulling away in a game where neither offense had any spark, they gave Rutgers a six-point swing and the lead, but the Scarlet Knights still found a way to crumble in the final minutes of a 59-54 loss.
In-state rivalry tensions came close to a boil with three minutes on the clock after a Seton Hall personal foul. Seton Hall’s Herb Pope and Aaron Cosby picked up technical fouls in an altercation with Elijah Carter, who also picked up a foul, and it allowed Rutgers to take a two-point lead.
Knocking down three free throws, Rutgers made it a six-point swing with a three-pointer from Dane Miller. Pope, however, made up for a bonehead technical foul with a three of his own on the other end that slowly sent Rutgers into a tailspin to end the game.
“It’s not why we lost,” Rice said. “We couldn’t make a layup. We couldn’t finish. ... It’s a tremendous shot by Herb Pope, toughness a will to make that shot at that point in time that put the momentum right back in their favor.”
Sophomore forward Mike Poole led Rutgers with one of his stronger career performances. The slahser came off the bench for a team-high 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 27 minutes. Carter led starters with 13 points, but made just 33 percent of his shots.
“They responded the right way and we responded the wrong way,” Poole said on the final three minutes of the game.
Rutgers (12-13, 4-8) drops below .500 for the first time this season and has three losses in a row.
“There are reasons why we’re not finishing those games off,” Rice said. “We have to improve on those areas. ... It’s as simple as that. It’s not like there’s no effort. There is. There’s an effort. There’s a purpose. Now you have to be better.”