Miller Playing with New-Found Energy

Dane Miller promised at practice after the West Virginia loss that he would not let the Rutgers basketball team fade away into another disappointing season. Guaranteeing more energy on the court, Miller has backed up his words so far in consecutive wins. Facing the Mountaineers Saturday, Miller discussed last night's win over Pittsburgh and his attempts to step it up.

No one was more critical of Dane Miller after last week's loss to West Virginia than head coach Mike Rice. Saying the junior forward took the game off, Rice called for more energy and passion out of his most experienced player.

Miller, who said himself that things were going to change, responded as the energetic harbinger in back-to-back victories over No. 8 Connecticut and Pittsburgh.

Rice credits Miller with two big-time performances and is just as complimentary now as he was critical during the big man's struggles midway through the season.

"Last night's game shows when Dane Miller, somebody's who's probably as important to my basketball team as anyone else ... if he brings that energy and passion and toughness that this young team needs, we can be a pretty good ballclub," Rice said.

The conundrum for Rice, he said, is figuring out which Miller will show up. Will it be the passive Dr. Jekyll or the dominating, unifying force of Mr. Hyde?

"It's an every day, ongoing process," Rice said. "Each one of our assistants has taken eight months to try to get through to him, to try to figure the puzzle which is Dane Miller's thought process. Dane, to be honest with you, he's the best.

"He's the most coachable individual that I've ever dealt with. He's a great teammate, he's unselfish, he wants to get everybody involved. It's that edge. It goes against, kind of his DNA, he's such a laid back, quiet person. We don't need that person. We need the Troy Polamalu, so to speak. We need the toughness, the rebounding."

There have been two different Millers on the court this season. One tends to show up in wins, and the other in losses. In the 10 Rutgers wins this season, Miller averages 28 minutes, 8.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. In the seven losses, the numbers drop to 25 minutes, 4.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

The win over Pittsburgh fits into the first category for Miller, who finished with a double-double and helped hold the Panthers to 21 percent from the floor.

"I was happy with my energy," Miller said. "When they went on a little run, I felt myself doing the things I need to help my team stop that run. We did a great job as a team and I felt everybody else's energy."

The key, Miller said, was the successful switch and team defense of leading scorer Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs is the Big East preseason Player of the Year and he finished with eight points and shot 19 percent.

"That was our main focus," Miller said. "They run 80 or 85 percent of their offense through him, so we just tried to shut him down and contain him and make him take tough shots. We felt if we did that, we'd have a chance to win the game."

The lowlight of Miller's season came just nine days ago in the first of two matchups against West Virginia. Miller was unproductive from the start and only saw 11 minutes of action because of it. He went scoreless.

"When we played them at home, I didn't have the best game," Miller said. "I really wasn't in it. As a team, we didn't finish. We fought back into the game, but they made a run and played a really good game. We're happy that we have a chance to come to West Virginia to try to get this [win]."

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