PISCATAWAY – It just wouldn’t be Rutgers-Seton Hall without a confrontation. And so, the players obliged. No one more so than Herb Pope and Eli Carter.
After Myles Mack was fouled by Aaron Cosby during a shot attempt, Pope and Carter got into an altercation. After Carter brushed off Pope, Pope appeared to headbutt Carter. The 6-foot-2, 190 pound Carter would retaliate by pushing the 6-foot-8, 236 pound Pope. Pope took the opportunity to flop on what Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard thought should be a foul on Carter.
Whether or not Pope headbutted Carter or not depends on who you ask. Even the head official Jim Burr was asked his take on the confrontation.
"One kid [Carter] pushed the [other] kid [Pope] in the chest and one kid headbutted the [other] guy," Burr said in a statement to Rutgers' athletics. "It wasn't a great headbutt, it was just a little tap so they're offsetting, unsporting-like technical fouls and they offset each other."
Then, the scrum ensued. Carter would jaw with his good friend Fuquan Edwin while both benches would need to be separated. The result was a technical foul on Pope, Brandon Mobley and Carter with 3:26 remaining and Rutgers trailing 48-44.
While Willard said he didn’t see a headbutt, and Pope said he “leaned over to tell him [Carter] something I guess he must have felt some type of way and pushed me.”
Carter didn’t see it that way.
“Yeah — he definitely did [headbutt me], but it’s a rivalry game. No hard feelings,” Carter said.
After a five minute break to have the incident reviewed by the officials, Rutgers would make three out of four free throws. The Scarlet Kinghts would get the ball right back and Dane Miller would hit a three to put them up two. But Pope would answer with a three of his own, and Seton Hall wouldn’t give up the lead, going on a 10-1 run.
“The Pope three was big, but really the next two possessions were huge,” Willard said.
He added: “then Fuquan [Edwin] getting the steal and the deflection and then Aaron Cosby having the confidence to hit those two threes was big.”
Mike Poole would hit a three with 9 seconds remaining to make it 58-54, but it was too late for Rutgers to mount a comeback as Seton Hall won 59-54.
And after a once promising season began to spiral out of control, where the Pirates saw their No. 24 ranking quickly fade after losing six straight games, Willard was just happy to escape the RAC with the win.
"We started talking about winning and having a winning attitude," Willard said. “Obviously it’s a rivalry game for the fans but we needed to get a W to save our season.”For more Rutgers and Seton Hall coverage follow Matt on Twitter @MattSugam and on Facebook