It took 45 minutes, but the Rutger Scarlet Knights overcame the Seton Hall Pirates Tuesday with a 76-70 overtime win, advancing to the second round of the 2011 Big East Tournament.
Rutgers got off to a hot start, taking a 9-0 lead just over five minutes into the game, but could not sustain their momentum. Led by Jeremy Hazell's 12 first-half points--he would finish with 27 to go with seven rebounds--the Pirates fought back to tie the game with six minutes to go in the half, eventually taking a 32-26 lead into the locker room.
The Pirates managed to hold onto their lead for most of the second half, but could never really build on it, only ever getting it up to eight points with about seven minutes to go. Slowly, the Scarlet Knights began to chip away, using a balanced scoring attack to finally regain the lead at 58-57 with four minutes to play.
The teams would trade three pointers and free throws, with a pair of makes from Rutgers' Mike Coburn leaving the Pirates in a 64-61 hole with just nine seconds to play. With Rutgers playing some high-energy defense on the last play, Seton Hall had to turn to a desperation shot from their star guard. Hazell pulled up a good yard behind the NBA three-point line, and with two Rutgers players jumping at him, knocked down the straight-away three to send the game to overtime.
While the final seconds of regulation had provided one of those great basketball moments, overtime was a messy affair. Neither team could manage more than one field goal, with almost all of their points coming from fouls and free throws. Eventually, it was the turnovers that got the best of Seton Hall. Two straight steals in the last thirty seconds of the game allowed Jordan Mitchell, who finished the game with 25 points, to score the last five of the game, finally pushing Rutgers over the top.
Rutgers will go on to face no. 5 St. Johns at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.