Knights upset No. 10 Florida in 2OT entering Big East play
Eli Carter insisted there was never a moment in the Rutgers men's basketball team's double-overtime victory against No. 10 Florida when the Scarlet Knights knew they could win.
Instead, the conviction took shape in the days leading up to last night's 85-83 thriller against the Gators, the freshman guard said.
"We came into the game with that mentality," said Carter, who scored a career-high 31 points on 12-for-24 shooting. "There wasn't an exact point in the game."
Carter and the rest of the Knights' (8-5) belief propelled them through a pair of overtimes, when they and the visiting Gators (10-3) wrestled away lead after lead, momentum swing after momentum swing.
They jostled through 40 minutes of regulation, as freshman point guard Myles Mack's fade-away attempt as time expired fell short.
But the St. Anthony product and the rest of the young Rutgers backcourt put themselves in a position to play on.
Carter, Mack and rookie point guard Jerome Seagears combined for 58 points and 10 assists, while junior wing Dane Miller chipped in with 16 points of his own.
"I'm excited because everyone counted us out and said we were underdogs," Miller said. "We didn't listen to that. We just came out and played hard."
Rutgers' intensity led to 18 turnovers from Florida's largely veteran-laden backcourt, which includes Southeastern Conference heavyweights Erving Walker and junior Kenny Boynton.
One of the takeaways occurred during the last minute of regulation, when the Knights stripped Walker of the ball en route to overcoming a 7-point deficit.
Rice sat in awe of the feat following his second consecutive season with a victory against a top-10 opponent.
The first occurred in a dramatic 77-76 win against then-No. 9 Villanova a year ago. But Rice's conquest against Florida was more valuable simply for the fact that there are 18 Big East games left to play.
"Hopefully belief," Rice said. "It doesn't mean we're going to win the next game or even compete in the next game. What it should mean is that belief in the system, belief in the execution."
The lack of belief spurred Mike Rosario, formerly hailed as the savior of the Knights' program, to transfer to Florida following the 2009-10 season. He returned to the Louis Brown Athletic Center for the first time last night, scoring only 5 points before not seeing the floor during either overtime.
He and Miller translated a heated exchange into double technical fouls, but Miller said it was "old friends talking, that's all."
Rosario made a return to the Rutgers locker room following the contest, but only to congratulate the Knights on their non-conference finale, which Rice said was "a classy move, a very classy move."