PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Dane Miller was not about to let another last-minute possession with the game on the line end in embarrassment.
Called losers by coach Mike Rice Thursday after a loss to Villanova, the Scarlet Knights were anything but in the final minute of a 61-58 win over St. John’s on Senior Night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
“This is a confidence builder going into the Big East Tournament,” said sophomore Mike Poole, who scored 11 points. “If we didn’t come out and win, the Big East Tournament would be tough for us.”
Down by one with the ball and 40 seconds left in the game, whatever the Scarlet Knights drew up fell apart quickly. Trying to get a shot off, freshman guard Elijah Carter missed ugly but Miller flew to the rim and blew the roof off the RAC with a game-winning dunk.
“He just comes out of nowhere and saves the day,” Poole said. “With a guy that athletic and skilled, he does things like that. He shocks everybody.”
For Rutgers to get going in the second half, it took a questionable fifth foul call on Gilvydas Biruta. With the starting big man out of the game and the fans in the RAC in a frenzy, Miller took over the five position for the next three minutes and played it to perfection.
Miller took over with Rutgers trailing by four points and made an instant impact. His offensive rebound put Rutgers within two and a tip-in at the next position tied the game at 52 going into the final minutes. Miller finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds on the game, including six points and five boards as the center.
“I felt like Shaq for a little bit,” Miller said. “[The coaches] are telling me to duck in and I’m only 200 pounds. I can’t duck in against [God’sgift Achiuwa]. That’s 250, but I held my own and we came out with the win.”
Poole scored all 11 of his points in the second half to bolster Miller’s strong finish to the game. Freshman guard Elijah Carter led the team with 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Playing on the Senior Night, guards Charlie Rigoglioso and Mike Kuhn earned spots in the starting lineup. Playing for the first minute and a half, neither took a shot, but Rigoglioso grabbed a defensive rebound on the first possession and received a loud cheer from the fans.
“[Kuhn] was saying in every huddle, ‘make this a great night for me. Make this a great night for me,’” Rice said. “It was good to get those guys in there. ... Get them in there and get them recognized because they do so much for my program, especially with this young team and cast of characters. They were a rock every day in practice.”
With the win, Rutgers finishes as the No. 11 seed in the Big East tournament. The Scarlet Knights are scheduled for a 9 p.m. tip Tuesday night against Villanova with the winner playing No. 6 South Florida and then No. 3 Notre Dame.
“I wish we could play them right now,” Poole said. “I want to play them so bad, just to get another chance.”