The last time Jonathan Mitchell set a career high for points, it was against Georgetown. There wasn’t much to celebrate then.
The junior forward from Rutgers did it again Sunday, only this time he got to enjoy a huge win with his teammates.
Mitchell scored 24 points, three more than he had against the seventh-ranked Hoyas in a 25-point loss last month, and the Scarlet Knights beat a top 10 team for the first time in seven years, 71-68 over Georgetown.
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“We took it as a personal challenge (this time),” the 6-foot-7 Mitchell said. “Down there they had their way with us and they blew us out. We didn’t want that to happen in our home.”
It didn’t. Mitchell had 21 points against the Hoyas in an 88-63 loss in January. This game was a lot different because of his 9-of-12 shooting and Rutgers (13-12, 3-9 Big East) ability to keep Georgetown (18-6, 8-5) from going on any extended runs.
Mitchell made his first seven shots, including four 3-pointers, and the Scarlet Knights, who were 15th in the 16-team Big East coming in, just wouldn’t fold against a team which came in tied for third place.
“This is the toughest conference in the country and to beat the number seven team in the country, a top four team in our league, goes to show you that when we have the mindset we can play with anybody in the country,” Mitchell said. “We just have to do it consistently and every day.”
Greg Monroe had 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four rebounds and Austin Freeman had 17 points for the Hoyas, who were coming off a 103-90 victory over No. 4 Villanova and next face No. 2 Syracuse on Thursday.
Rutgers lived up to the term “trap game.”
“Over the past couple of days we kind of knew they were going to underestimate us, so we just kept going hard at practice and everything,” said 7-foot Hamady Ndiaye, who had 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots as well as having to deal with the 6-11 Monroe, considered one of the best centers in the conference if not the country. “And that’s exactly what happened on the court.”
Dane Miller had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Scarlet Knights, who have won four of five, but the previous wins in that run—Notre Dame, St. John’s and Division II Caldwell—hardly matched their first win over a ranked team since beating then-No. 13 Pittsburgh in January 2008, and their first over a top 10 team since a 95-82 victory over then-No. 9 Notre Dame on March 1, 2003.
“They were definitely more intense. They came out and played harder,” Monroe said of the difference in Rutgers from three weeks ago. “There was nothing different in X’s and O’s and execution. They just had a lot more intensity.”
Ndiaye said the “energy was completely different.”
“We came out ready to go full battle,” he said. “We wanted to defend our court.”
This game was close throughout with 12 lead changes and seven ties. Despite shooting 50.9 percent (29 of 57) from the field—Georgetown came in third in the nation at 50.6 percent—and finishing with a 34-29 rebound advantage, the Hoyas led just once in the second half, and Rutgers answered that right back in the final minute.
The Hoyas took a 66-65 lead on Monroe’s up-and-under move with 52 seconds to play. Miller had an extended arm tip-in of a missed jumper by Mike Rosario with 21 seconds left to get the Scarlet Knights the lead back, and then he made two free throws with 10.1 seconds left for a three-point lead.
Miller couldn’t have stretched his arms any farther for the offensive rebound.
“When I saw he was going up for the shot I figured I had to go to the glass,” the 6-7 freshman said. “I was definitely surprised it went in. The ball came off like a long rebound. I wasn’t thinking, I just put my arms out and caught it and brought it to the basket.”
Freeman’s two free throws with 5.7 seconds left made it 69-68, but after a missed 3-point attempt by Chris Wright, Mitchell made his clinching free throws. Freeman’s 23-footer bounced off the rim at the buzzer and the Rutgers team ran to center court and celebrated the big win.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III had no problem with Wright’s late 3-point attempt.
“I told them during the timeout if Rutgers scores, get it and push it and see what we had, if I didn’t like what I saw I would call a timeout,” he said. “We had a 2-on-1 on that side of the court. … Chris got a wide-open shot that he could make and the ball just didn’t go in.”
What made the Scarlet Knights’ win even more impressive was that Rosario, their leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, finished with 10 on 3-of-16 shooting, including 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
Rutgers even gave Georgetown a chance to take control of the game, going 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal after taking a 44-36 lead 2:32 into the second half. Even with the dry spell, Rutgers only gave up the lead once in that span, but the Scarlet Knights took it right back when Ndiaye’s two free throws tied it and Miller’s layup made it 51-49 with 9:58 to go.