Rutgers 79, Monmouth, N.J. 56
Mike Rice no longer coaches in the Northeast Conference. After
taking Robert Morris to three postseason appearances in three
seasons, he moved on to Rutgers of the Big East this spring.
But that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten about the NEC. Despite
little national recognition, the 12-team league has the potential
to pull off a stunner every now and again. And on Saturday night,
it almost happened again.
Mike Coburn scored 18 points and Jonathan Mitchell added 16 as
Rutgers broke open what was a nip-and-tuck game and overwhelmed
Monmouth (N.J.) 79-56 on Saturday night, the Scarlet Knights’ fifth
consecutive victory and Rice’s first on the road.
”Monmouth hit shots, and they played with an edge for 30
minutes,” Rice said. ”We definitely got punched, but we didn’t
come apart, we stuck to the plan, and maybe, Monmouth wore down at
Rutgers (8-2) has won eight of nine and improved to 3-1 vs. New
Jersey schools, having only lost to Princeton 78-73 on opening
night. There was a sense of familiarity to the night for Rice, who
lives in nearby Little Silver, N.J., and is 2-0 at Monmouth’s new
Multipurpose Activities Center in less than a year.
”We fought and we played hard defensively,” Monmouth coach
Dave Calloway said. ”But you have to give them credit. They made
shots at the end.”
R.J. Rutledge led the Hawks (4-7) with 17 points and Ed Waite
had 13 in the opener of what is a rare Big East back-to-back
situation for this NEC program. Monmouth will play host to No. 10
Villanova on Wednesday.
”This is a step forward,” Rice said. ”We had a plan, we stuck
to the plan, and we persevered.”
Though it wasn’t easy. After trailing 37-31 at the break, the
Hawks, in fact, took the lead at 41-39 four minutes into the second
half in a game that saw the lead change 11 times, with four
But Gilvydas Biruta’s slam with 12:08 left in the second half
gave Rutgers a 52-44 lead, brought the road fans to their feet,
forced a Monmouth timeout, and for the first time all night, put
the Hawks in a hole they couldn’t get out of.
Dane Miller had 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists for
the Scarlet Knights, who had four players reach double figures.
”We hung with them most of the game,” said Rutledge, who had
three of Monmouth’s 18 turnovers. ”But the turnovers caught up to
us in the end. We had the energy going for a while, but it’s still
There will be tougher tests awaiting Rutgers, especially as it
enters Big East play next month. The Scarlet Knights will need to
play better than they did for several stretches vs. the Hawks. But
all told, Rutgers scored the game’s final 13 points, and Rice –
trying to turn around a team that went 15-17 last year – will take
eight wins in 10 tries more often than not.
”We’re getting better,” said Rice, whose team plays host to
St. Peter’s on Thursday. ”We don’t look that far, we look to the
next game. The next game is always our biggest game. But the
players are buying in, and they have the ability to change. That’s
The Hawks, meanwhile, must now prepare for the Wildcats, a team
they lost to in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
Villanova improved to 9-1 with a 78-59 win over Delaware on
”We’ll go back and watch tape and prepare,” Calloway said.
”Our problem is, we can’t simulate in practice some of the talent
that Villanova has on the floor.”