Some fans might be upset about the Syracuse basketball program needing overtime to defeat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 84-80, in a Big East Conference game at the Carrier Dome. However, if you’ve seen the Rutgers basketball program play at all this season — and being an SB Nation New York college basketball guy, I’ve watched them a bit — that’s how Mike Rice coaches. His teams are fundamentally sound, play solid defense and don’t quit. (Just ask the Villanova Wildcats, who lost to Rice last week and almost to him last March.)
Right now, Rutgers (13-13, 4-10 Big East) doesn’t have the talent to win a lot of games in the nation’s toughest league, but they play well enough to compete. Thanks to senior forward Rick Jackson, who filled the stat sheet with 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks; and junior forward Kris Joseph, who quietly netted had a team-best 21 points, SU (22-6, 9-6) survived a Big East contest. (Something that seems hard to do right now.)
Sophomore guard Brandon Triche scored just seven second-half points, but finished with 17, six rebounds and four assists. Again, freshman forward C.J. Fair was very productive off the bench with 17 points and eight rebounds.
It was a grinder for SU, but playing in the nation’s best league isn’t easy. Ask Villanova, which almost lost to the DePaul Blue Demons Saturday. This was a decent primer for the Orange who will play another "Big Monday" showdown on the road, this time at ’Nova (7 p.m.).