Consider these superlatives: With a win against DePaul on Sunday, the Scarlet Knights improved to 12-4 on the season, their best start since the 1982-83 season. The team's 2-1 record is Rutgers' best conference start since the 1998-99 season and matches the school's conference win total from all of last season.
Not that Rutgers fans should start breaking out the champagne quite yet. The Scarlet Knights play in the country's best conference and are home against undefeated Pittsburgh on Wednesday. But with three of the next four games at home and matchups against Cincinnati and Providence, the team's confidence could be high.
Coach Gary Waters' squad certainly appears determined to give its fans as much excitement as possible. Rutgers is coming off a stretch of back-to-back overtime games, a loss to Villanova and a victory over DePaul.
The Scarlet Knights are never pretty, but they're tough. That's a quality that has been apparent in Waters' teams at Kent State, but not as much in his tenure at Rutgers and certainly not with last year's team.
This year's squad has shown tenacity, and seems poised to move from the basement to the middle of the pack. This next two-week game is critical in determining whether the Scarlet Knights will be a contender for the NCAA Tournament or will be fighting just to make the Big East edition.
Notes and Quotes
--Quincy Douby, the leading scorer in the Big East, dominated when the Scarlet Knights needed him most Sunday. To begin overtime, Douby, who finished with a team-high 20 points, scored to give the Scarlet Knights a two-point lead.
Then, leading by two with about three minutes left, Douby made a three-pointer to give his team the lead for good. DePaul wouldn't get any closer than four points the rest of the way, giving Rutgers a 78-68 victory at Rosemont, Ill. Freshman J.R. Inman had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Scarlet Knights, who led at halftime by eight.
--Reserve forward Jimmie Inglis bailed out the Scarlet Knights on Sunday by playing key minutes late in the game and in overtime after center Byron Jones and forward Anthony Farmer fouled out. Inglis scored seven points, all on free throws during overtime.
--Freshman guard Anthony Farmer, battling an injured wrist on his shooting hand, came off the bench for the first time this season and scored 11 points.
--Guard Quincy Douby has scored 20 points or more in nine straight games and 12 of the team's past 13 outings. He has scored in double figures 22 straight games.
--Rutgers won the game against DePaul at the free throw line. The Scarlet Knights knocked down 22 of their 25 shots from the stripe.
--The Scarlet Knights might have scored the upset over Villanova had it not been for their turnover trouble. Rutgers gave the ball away 21 times, leading to 26 Villanova points.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We definitely feel we let this one get away." -- Rutgers freshman J.R. Inman on the Villanova game, in the Newark Star-Ledger.
Villanova 84, Rutgers 78
Rutgers 78, DePaul 68
vs. Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Jan. 18.
at Cincinnati, Sunday, Jan. 22.
vs. Providence, Wednesday, Jan. 25.
vs. Louisville, Saturday, Jan. 28.
KEYS: The Scarlet Knights have proved they're tough enough to win close games. Now, they have a chance to prove they can defend their home court against a Top 10 team in the Panthers. To do that, the Scarlet Knights will need the home crowd to be the sixth man that has proven so effective against opponents in the past.
--C Jimmy Ingils forced overtime against Villanova by banking in a three-pointer at the end of the game. It's the first three-pointer he's attempted all year.
--C Byron Joynes is playing in a shoulder harness on his left shoulder, which has popped out of joint several times this season.