Miller Ready for Final Stretch

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Thoughts of an NCAA tournament appearance disappeared nearly a month ago, but the Rutgers basketball team still has plenty to play for tonight against Villanova. Junior forward Dane Miller, who awoke Saturday against Seton Hall from a month-long slumber, discussed the motivation he and his teammates feel tonight with two home games to finish the regular season.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Beating Villanova last year was big for the Rutgers basketball team. A win over a top-10 team in dramatic fashion sent fans out on a high note after a pedestrian overall season.

This year, Rutgers remains in the hunt for an NIT berth but needs a win tonight to keep things alive. Shut out of the postseason for five years, motivation will not be an issue tonight, said junior forward Dane Miller.

"I can't wait for this game," said Miller, who had 21 points and 10 boards Saturday against Seton Hall. "We need to get this win and bring a lot of momentum to try to change things. We want to go into conference play on a big roll and try to make something happen. It's not over. It's definitely not over."

Rutgers (13-16, 5-11) needs to beat Villanova and St. John's to finish the season then win two games at Madison Square Garden to finish at .500.

Five straight wins for a team without a scholarship senior is a tall task, but that is the goal, said Miller, who has never been a part of a .500 or better finish.

"That's what we're thinking, but we're not really saying it aloud," Miller said. "It's something we all feel inside, something we all want. We're just coming in to work every day and trying to get better. A lot of guys are watching more film because we know we have a chance. That was a big win."

Rutgers faces winnable matchups against Villanova (11-17, 4-12) and St. John's (13-17, 6-11) at home and is in solid position in terms of the conference tournament.

Twelfth in the standings this morning, Rutgers is in position to face Pittsburgh in the first round and the No. 7 seed the next day.

"Like Coach [Mike] Rice says, we've beaten teams that were top-20 teams when we beat them or earlier in the year, but we also lost to teams that were behind us," Miller said. "At this point, it really doesn't matter. Every game is important from here on out, so we have to come out and play."

If Rutgers lost to Seton Hall, the Villanova game becomes borderline meaningless in terms of postseason chances. But thanks to a clutch three from Jerome Seagears in a 77-72 overtime win, the Scarlet Knights are feeling good going into the final stretch of the season.

"When you lose six in a row, you're not in a great frame of mind," Rice said. "If anything, it made the guys believe in the formula and what I'm talking about and what I'm teaching. It just lifts up their spirits. Any time you lose for a whole month, I don't care who you are a seasoned four-year senior or a first-year freshman, you're going to doubt yourself. That win, I hope, allowed us to kind of get over that and start to believe in each other more."


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