PISCATAWAY N.J. – Rutgers (13-15, 4-13) held the lead for nearly 35 minutes Tuesday night, but No. 15/17 Marquette (22-7, 13-4) turned it up late on both ends, going 4-4 from the free throw line in the final 14 seconds to seal a 60-54 victory at the RAC. Misses at the free throw line and turnovers in the final minutes circumvented a hard-fought effort by the Scarlet Knights, who led by as many as 12 points in the second half.
Sophomore guards Myles Mack (Paterson, N.J.) and Jerome Seagears (Silver Spring, Md.) paced the RU (15-13, 4-13) backcourt with 11 and 10 points, respectively, as sophomore forward Derrick Randall (Brooklyn, N.Y.) posted a season-best eight points on 4-5 shooting.
It was the final home regular season contest for seniors Dane Miller (Rochester, N.Y) and Austin Johnson (Elkins Park, Pa.), who were both honored prior to tip-off. Miller scored five points and notched three assists in 29 minutes of action, while Johnson went 3-4 with six points.
Already holding a one-point lead with 1:32 remaining, Marquette’s Junior Cadougan, who scored 10 points, knocked down 1-3 free throws to make it a two-point game. RU had an opportunity to tie or regain the lead with 0:16 seconds remaining, but a Scarlet Knights miscue returned possession to Marquette, forcing Mack to foul.
Marquette’s Vander Blue, who scored a game-high 22 points, went 2-2 from the charity stripe on the alternate possession to complete the Golden Eagles victory.
Blue knocked down a 3-pointer, his only one of the contest, with 4:02 remaining to mark the game’s first tie at 52-52. The Golden Eagles only knocked down four 3-pointers of the contest, as the team scored 30 points in the paint en route to the victory.
Another Blue jumper at the 5:05 mark cut the RU advantage to 50-49, Marquette’s lowest deficit since trailing 3-2 with 19:23 remaining in the first period. Sophomore Kadeem Jack (Queens, N.Y.) got to the line on the following possession and knocked down a pair of free throws to push the RU lead back up to three, but the Golden Eagles’ 12-18 free throw clip enabled them to get back into the contest.
RU knocked down its first three field goals of the game en route to a 58.3 first half shooting percentage — their best mark in a half since Dec. 21(Howard). That mark gave the Scarlet Knights a 31-21 lead heading into halftime. Both teams lived in the paint in the first period, with the Golden Eagles holding the 16-14 advantage at the half.
Randall posted his best half of the season, tying his career high in blocks (three) and scoring six points on 3-3 shooting.
The Scarlet Knights built their second 10-point advantage of the period off a Mack 3-pointer, his first of the contest, with 2:06 remaining in the period. Marquette’s Vander Blue responded with a quick layup, but a Poole jumper with 1:20 remaining marked the final bucket of the first half.
Marquette won the tip and scored on its opening possession of the half, before the Scarlet Knights ripped a 16-4 run to build a 10-point lead. Seagears knocked down his only two 3-pointers during the run, as junior forward Wally Judge (Washington, D.C.) opened the game with a layup and emphatic alley-oop from Mack.
The Scarlet Knights close the regular season on Friday night in the second installment of the “Turnpike Tussle” with in-state rival Seton Hall. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Prudential Center. The game will be televised live on SNY. RU prevailed in the first meeting between the two schools, 57-55, at the
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- RU’s 58.3 field goal percentage in the first half was its best shooting half in BIG EAST play this season and best since a 63.0 percent mark in the second half of the game against Howard on Dec. 21, 2012.
- The Scarlet Knights shot 46.0 percent for the game, its best shooting percentage since tallying a mark of 46.3 percent at DePaul on Feb. 16.
- Derrick Randall tied his career-high in blocks, notching all three in the first half. The last time he had three was at Pitt on Jan. 11, 2012. He also set a season-high with eight points in the game, six of which came in the first half.
- Two seniors, Austin Johnson and Dane Miller, were honored in pregame Senior Night ceremonies. Senior head manager Anthony Gallo and manager Craig Ebinger were also honored.
- Prior to the game, sophomore guard Myles Mack as named the Court Club Player of the Month for February.
- RU drops to 1-7 all-time against Marquette.
- Myles Mack finished with 11 points, his 20th double-digit scoring game of the season and 35th of his career. He led the Scarlet Knights in scoring for the ninth time this season.
- Jerome Seagears notched 10 points, his fourth time in double-digits this season and the 14th time in his career. It marked the first time the guard has posted 10-plus since Villanova on Feb. 18.
- All eight of the Scarlet Knights who scored tallied four or more points.
- Mike Poole led the team in rebounding with six. It was the second time Poole led the team this season and the seventh time in his career.
- Wally Judge owns the longest active starting streak at 21-straight games.
- Rutgers held the Golden Eagles to 60 points, 9.5 points below their season average.
- RU held MU seven points under its average in bench points.
Rutgers Head Coach Mike Rice
Opening Statement: “There are a lot of disappointed, hurt individuals in that locker room. I told them that they deserved to be happy for how hard they’ve worked without any results, how hard they keep practicing for each other and the staff. I look out there sometimes in practice and you get so excited because we’re so close in certain aspects. This team won’t quit. I give them a lot of credit for that. After a long, hard season, they keep at it.”
On biggest reason for loss: “The inability to finish games out. I’ve talked about it before, the inability right now to understand how to close games out. We are going to get there. We’re going to work on it. We’re going to work on execution and ball fakes. We’re going to work on ripping low and all the things that you do to finish games. They’re close.”
On team’s fight: “They keep fighting. They are all back. Most of them are back (next year). Most of them understand where they were when they first stepped on (campus) and where they are going to be. Go back with me to the first practice they were here and how much they’ve learned. Some leagues it’s tougher than others. Some programs it is tougher than others. I look at them in the face – Myles and Jerome – and I ask them, did you think it was going to be easy? We’re going to roll up our sleeves and we’ll get there. There is no wits end. There’s fight. I see them work every day.”
On Dane Miller and Austin Johnson: “Dane and AJ did the annual pre-game speech and they were tremendous. I thought they played with tremendous heart.”
Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams
Opening Statement: “I was trying to get something going [subbing five at a time]. I thought those guys were playing really hard. I thought at that point in the game, it was the hardest we had played, and I thought we were in a pretty good groove. But I thought we needed new life, we needed new energy. We were still playing from behind and thought the only chance that we had was to keep running guys in and out. Of course, as the game drew to a close, I kept those core guys in there that were in a good rhythm. At that point and time I thought that was the right thing to do.”
On the Difference in the Half: “I think a lot of people will say that there’s a huge difference between being 13-4 and 4-13, but I think when you are inside of that, you realize how fragile this is and small the difference is. I think Rutgers is good; I think they’re talented; I think Coach Rice does really creative things offensively; I think they play extremely hard defensively. We turned the ball over eight times in the first half [and] we had zero free-throw makes. I thought for sure Rutgers dominated the half on both ends of the floor. I don’t necessarily think that in the second half, because we were running guys in and out, that it was the difference in the game. But I do think that in the second half out energy was much better, and more closely matched how they had been playing.”
On Rutgers Senior Day: “This was Senior Day for them. I know that it was an important game. I’ve known Dane Miller since he was in high school. He was named to the first [Rutgers] class when I was first named head coach at Marquette. Obviously, it’s different than playing in front of the second-largest crowd in Wisconsin history, as opposed to being on the road no matter where it’s at. It’s hard to win on the road.”
On BIG EAST Competition: “That Rutgers is 4-12 entering the day and that we’re 12-4 and a half a game out of first place has no bearing on the outcome. You have to earn the right to win, whether it’s at home or on the road, and I think on a nightly basis, this league is as good as it is.”