Prudential Center-Rutgers has been playing decent basketball of late, and they were hoping to take down two top 25 teams just a few days apart. But that wouldn’t come to fruition.
Guard Bryce Aiken scored 22 points and Jared Rhoden chipped in 16 points and nine boards to lead No. 23 Seton Hall (9-1) past Rutgers 77-63 on Sunday night in the Garden State Hardwood Classic at the Prudential Center in front of a full house.
Aiken was selected the Joe Calabrese MVP for his performance in a rivalry game between premier basketball schools. This win gives Seton Hall a little advantage with their recruitment.
The MVP award is named after a former journalist who passed away in 1999 and was a fixture in New Jersey sports journalism for 38 years.
The two schools are separated by an approximate 27- mile drive down the GSP.
“It’s the first time for me being part of the Seton Hall-Rutgers game, so it was a fun experience,” Aiken said. But we’re taking it one game at a time and just trying to improve.”
With the victory, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard passed P.J. Carlesimo into second place in program history with 213 wins.
SHU is off to its best start since 2017-18 when it began the season with a 9-1 record.
Caleb McConnell poured in 13 points and 12 boards for Rutgers (5-5), who were coming off a exciting win Thursday night over the top-ranked Boilermakers on a long 3-pointer at the buzzer by Ron Harper Jr. from damn near the parking lot.
This season marks the first time in program history that the Pirates have defeated two top 10 non-conference opponents in the regular season.
The first half went back-and-forth, the game was tied at 23 at the 4:18 mark until the break after McConnell’s long jumper. Then Pirates went on a 14-0 run before taking a 37-27 lead into break.
Rutgers trimmed the lead to six points a few times but couldn’t get any closer. The last time was 62-56 with 6:24 left in the game before Seton Hall made another run and sealed the game.
The Pirates defense shut down every lane –they were chest to chest and hip to hip to the Rutgers’ shooters all game long. Their amped up defense was the difference in the contest.
“Just never seemed to get that stop. There was that long possession where the ball got tipped out of bounds, but we just didn’t play well,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. And you’ve got to play well when you’re on the road against a good basketball team.”
Kadary Richmond added 12 points for the Hall.
Rutgers: Plays Rider on Saturday.
Seton Hall: Plays Iona on Saturday in the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden.