Anticipation Aplenty as RU Returns To Court

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- There is finally genuine excitement building up to a game at the Rutgers Athletic Center. A sellout crowd is expected as the Scarlet Knights host rival Seton Hall today (7 p.m.) in the first game since Rutgers stunned No. 9 Villanova three days ago. So, can Rutgers avoid a letdown? What does coach Mike Rice expect?

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – It is the most anticipation for a Rutgers game in years, coming off one of the most thrilling finishes in decades.

A sellout crowd is expected as Rutgers (13-11, 4-8 Big East) hosts Seton Hall (10-14, 4-8) at the Rutgers Athletic Center, and in addition to a heightened excitement level from the fan base and media, the Scarlet Knights enter with a big unknown on their side.

Will they be flat or energized? Focused or still living in Wednesday's four-point moment?

It is Rutgers' first game since the rousing comeback to beat No. 9 Villanova on Jonathan Mitchell's four-point play with .8 seconds remaining.

"I hope to use the energy that this has created, not only for us but for the RAC, for our student section," Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. "We have to use it as a positive. We can't be in la-la land. We have to understand how to handle success, and this team hasn't had any, so it ought to be interesting.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to get. I hope I'm going to get a determined, focused team that has more wind in its sails than it's had in the last five years with a win like this. Again, I'm not real sure."

How can Rutgers ensure it is not living on its laurels?

"Don't read the clippings," Mitchell said. "We can't get caught up in the whole moment that we had. We have to do the best job we can to move forward and put all our attention on Seton Hall."

Matching the early intensity of the Pirates will be a way to gauge the Scarlet Knights' mentality. Seton Hall's six-point loss to the Scarlet Knights last month was nothing short of embarrassing, from leading scorer Jeremy Hazell shooting 6 of 21 from the field to the Pirates' lack of effort of focus for 38 minutes.

"I'm not sure how ornery (Seton Hall) is going to be," Rice said. "They had another team of drilling it, of putting up the embarrassment articles that everybody wrote about how they performed, about the game.

"I expect a very ornery team, and a team that on some nights look like they're a top 25 team in the country."

How Seton Hall views the game is evident in a quote attributed to guard Jordan Theodore in the Setonian, the student paper on the West Orange, N.J., campus.

"It really hurt me, I didn't want to lose," Theodore was quoted as saying about the January loss to Rutgers. "When we go to Rutgers, we are not losing."

It is the attitude Rutgers wing Dane Miller, who will guard Hazell, expects from the Pirates.

"We know it's a rivalry game and we already beat them once, so we know they're going to come out prepared and ready to win," Miller said. "Me, having the task of guarding Jeremy Hazell again, one of the best shooters in the country, knowing he's going to come out and be aggressive, I have to be ready for the game."

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