MIKE RICE INTERVIEW
MIKE COBURN INTERVIEW
JONATHAN MITCHELL INTERVIEW
NEW YORK -- When the pairings for the Big East tournament were announced one opening-round game stood out as a renewal of a local rivalry.
The conference's two New Jersey schools didn't let anyone down.
Jonathan Mitchell scored 25 points, including eight free throws in overtime, to lead Rutgers to a 76-70 victory over Seton Hall on Tuesday.
There was a 3 by Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell to tie at the buzzer in regulation. There were only two field goals in the overtime but there were enough free throws for four lead changes in a span of 1:19. There was a replay review that added a technical foul into the mix and five players fouled out in the extra 5 minutes.
"Coach told us from Day 1 when he first got here that we're going to be comfortable in chaos, and that was a very chaotic moment when he hit that 3," Mitchell said of first-year coach Mike Rice. "... In overtime, my teammates just did a great job of finding me and we made some free throws down the stretch."
In addition to state bragging rights and two wins in their three meetings this season, the 13th-seeded Scarlet Knights (15-16) will next play and fifth-seeded St. John's (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) on Wednesday.
"I thought I was playing the hottest Big East team today and now we face an opponent that's even hotter in this building," Rice said, referring to Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm's second home court. "... It's a big challenge, love it, we're on to the next round, great opportunity for our program and our seniors to show how much they've improved, to show that they're different."
Hazell had 27 points for the 12th-seeded Pirates (13-18), including the 3 that tied it 64-64 and sent the game to OT.
"I thought it was going to be a momentum-changer," Hazell said of his fourth 3-pointer. "Everybody was playing well, we just didn't get stops at the end when we needed them, and that's tough down the stretch when you're playing against a rivalry team. You have to get stops, and it's just tough. Tough day.
"Great screen, great pass, and I hit the shot. That's it."
No, there was a lot more after that shot.
Both teams had one field goal in the overtime, but Mitchell's 8-for-10 effort from the line was enough for Rutgers to end a three-game losing streak in the Big East tournament.
This was only the second time the conference's two New Jersey schools met in the tournament, with Rutgers winning both games.
James Beatty hit a jumper to give the Scarlet Knights a 66-64 lead 1:30 into the overtime.
After a turnover, Rutgers center Gilvydas Biruta grabbed the loose ball and was fouled. The officials reviewed the play and decided that Biruta had swung his elbows as he was being fouled and charged him with a contact deadball technical, his fifth personal.
Robert Lumpkins, an 89.5 percent free throw shooter, came in to shoot for Biruta and made one of two.
"I thought he had the elbows tucked, he had two guys in his face," Rice said of Biruta. "That's a tough call. Big East referees are the best in the world, so I'm going to trust they were right, even though in overtime that's an unbelievable call."
Seton Hall's Jordan Theodore made the two free throws off the technical to make it 67-66.
Freshman Fuquan Edwin made two free throws for Seton Hall with 2:14 left and that started a flurry of free throws that saw four lead changes in just over a minute.
Dane Miller made one of two to give Rutgers the lead for good at 71-70 with 55.2 seconds to play.
Seton Hall had four players foul out in the overtime.
"They got some stops. We didn't get some stops," first-year Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said in a summary of the overtime.
Biruta and Beatty both had 12 points for the Scarlet Knights, who closed the regular season with five losses in six games. Miller had nine points and 11 rebounds.
Theodore had 14 points and five assists for the Pirates, who won their last two games of the regular season.
"It was a great game, but the outcome for us is not what we wanted," Hazell said. "We worked too hard for this and we wanted the `W."
Mitchell who transferred to Rutgers after being a part of Florida's national championship team as a freshman, knows these Scarlet Knights are nowhere near the team that struggled to a 15-17 record last season.
"It's a whole different team. We've got a whole new demeanor this year, and I'm just glad we were able to win today," he said. "It's a great win for us."