For the first time since 2006, Rutgers will be advancing in the Big East tournament.
Jonathan Mitchell scored 17 points and made several critical free throws in overtime as Rutgers defeated Seton Hall 76-70 in the 12/13 matchup. The Scarlet Knights will face St. John’s in the 5/13 game and the winner of that game will face Syracuse on Thursday.
How the game was won: The game was an exciting one, as Jeremy Hazell hit a 3 at the end of regulation to force the extra frame. But Mitchell was completely unstoppable in overtime, and got to the basket at will. Mitchell scored eight of the Scarlet Knights’ 12 points in overtime — all at the free throw line. It was a surprising finish for Mitchell considering he only scored four points the entire first half.
Hero/zero: Aside from Mitchell, the Scarlet Knights also got a nice outing from Gilvydas Biruta who scored 12 points. But he fouled out after being called for a technical after swinging his elbows after a rebound with 3:09 left in overtime.
Seton Hall was led by Hazell’s 27 points and seven rebounds and Jordan Theodore chipped in 11. But Jeff Robinson struggled all afternoon, as he scored just nine points on 4-for-13 shooting. In overtime, Robinson missed both of his shots, including a 3 that would’ve given the Pirates the lead, plus he had a turnover.
What it means for Syracuse: On paper, this certainly helps Syracuse (and also St. John’s). Between Seton Hall and Rutgers, Seton Hall is the more dangerous team with Hazell playing some of his best basketball as of late.
This season, the Pirates were 2-8 against top 25 teams. But the two teams the Pirates beat? Syracuse and St. John’s. The Pirates had just beaten St. John’s 84-70 on Thursday to ruin the Red Storm’s chance at a double-bye. As for Syracuse, Seton Hall handed the Orange its worst home loss of the season, a 90-68 defeat on Jan. 25.
But that isn’t to say that Rutgers will be an easy win. The Scarlet Knights played both teams very well — and both games were on the road. On Feb. 2, the Red Storm narrowly escaped with a 58-56 win at Carnesecca Arena, needing a Justin Brownlee layup with 4 seconds left.
Meanwhile, the Orange had its own struggles against Rutgers, needing overtime to outlast the Scarlet Knights 84-80 on Feb. 19 at the Carrier Dome. Rick Jackson’s free throw with 10 seconds left tied the game, and James Beatty nearly won the game with a 3 as regulation ended.
The Scarlet Knights have won two of their last three games. Don’t be surprised if Syracuse plays Rutgers, and not St. John’s on Thursday.