PISCATAWAY – The was an intentional foul that led to Rutgers senior center Hamady Ndiaye being assessed a technical foul, a number of hard fouls, the refusal of Scarlet Knights freshman Dane Miller to shake hands afterward and an exchange of words between coaching staffs.
It was not aesthetically pleasing, but Seton Hall’s visit to the Rutgers Athletic Center invoked passions not seen often this season.
The Pirates persevered to beat Rutgers 85-74 in front of 6,517 Thursday, and afterward there wasn’t much discussion about the outcome.
Instead, the focus was on a pair of Seton Hall dunks in the final 20 seconds despite a double-digit lead, the exchanging of words between Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez and Rutgers assistants Darren Savino and Jim Carr, an intentional foul against Ndiaye and Miller ditching the post-game handshake and heading to the locker room.
“This is a tough loss,’’ Rutgers guard Mike Rosario said. “Typical rivalry game. Those guys played hard. We played hard to the end. …From my two years here, last year wasn’t as intense as this game. It’s just a typical rivalry game.’’
Rutgers coach Fred Hill said he didn’t see any of the aforementioned incidents.
Rutgers (15-15, 5-12 Big East) finishes the regular season Saturday at Pittsburgh, and will be anywhere from the No. 13 to No. 15 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament, which begins Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
The Pirates (17-11, 8-9) were led in scoring by Herb Pope’s 22 points, which matched his career high. Rather than allow Jeremy Hazell (19 points) to control the game, the Scarlet Knights opted to shade their defense toward him, which left Pope open.
He scored 18 first-half points and finished with 18 rebounds, which was a major reason why the Pirates held a 56-41 advantage on the boards. Jeff Robinson added 16 points and 14 rebounds.
“I thought that the difference was very simple, they out rebounded us,’’ Hill said. “That’s something that we‘ve been better at but tonight we just didn’t have it. I thought that we did a great job mixing defenses and took them out of what they wanted to run.’’
Rosario missed his first eight shots and finished 4 for 16 from the field, although he scored a team-leading 17 points. Jonathan Mitchell added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“I’m just excited,’’ Gonzalez said. “I thought it was a great win for us and I thought it was a statement win for us. I am very proud of the two guys that are sitting here (Pope and Robinson). Jeremy (Hazell) battled back and got 19, even though he was 1-for-8 from three.
“Jordan (Theodore) did a great job guarding Mike Rosario. There were just a lot of great things.”
Ndiaye’s senior day, which included the student section wearing giveaway t-shirts and the lower-level fans in the RAC given his facial image on a stick, didn’t turn out nearly as envisioned.
Ndiaye finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five blocked shots, but was also involved in a heated situation with 12:59 to play and the Scarlet Knights trailing 48-45. Ndiaye was pushed to the ground by Robinson, and got up and walked menacingly toward him. Ndiaye was restrained as Hill and Gonzalez both ran onto the count to control their players.
“It was a very, very emotional game,’’ said Ndiaye, who played in front of his mother for the first time in his life. “It always happes between us and SetonHall. It’s like a basketball war. We always go at it. It’s physical. It’s a rivalry game. I wish I would have kept my composure more.’’
Robinson was assessed an intentional foul, Ndiaye was given a technical and the Scarlet Knights emerged trailing 50-47 with the ball. A pair of free throws by Mike Rosario pulled Rutgers within 50-49, but Seton Hall responded with an 11-3 run to take control.
“It’s special night for ‘H’ and he’s a special human being, and a special player here at Rutgers,’’ Hill said. “He’s meant the world to this program; we’ve talked about him being the one who changed the culture of where we’re headed and the direction that we’re going. So we certainly wanted to win it for ‘H’ but we came up a little bit short.’’