Virginia 61, Rutgers 57
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)—Todd Billet scored 22 points in his return to Rutgers and made the game-winning foul shots with 13.8 seconds remaining to lead Virginia to a 61-57 win over the Scarlet Knights on Saturday.
Virginia (6-2), which has won three straight games, snapped a two-game winning streak by Rutgers (5-3).
After a 3-pointer by Rutgers’ Ricky Shields tied the game at 57-57 with 19.8 seconds left, Rutgers called a time-out to set up its defense.
After the Cavaliers inbounded, Billet dribbled up the left side and was tripped by Mike Sherrod. Staring into a hostile student section that had harassed him all game, Billet calmly sank both foul shots.
Shields then missed a driving layup attempt and Virginia’s Jason Clark was fouled by Jerome Coleman after getting the rebound. Clark sank both foul shots with 4.1 seconds left to seal the win.
Billet, who transferred from Rutgers after the 2000-01 season, returned Saturday to an angry sellout crowd.
Rutgers fans wore anti-Billet T-shirts, and the entire arena booed loudly when the junior guard was introduced. A banner in the student section said Billet = Traitor.
After an outstanding first half, Billet struggled offensively after picking up his fourth foul with 16:39 left in the second period. He played the final 14:26 and eventually came to life down the stretch.
Trailing 42-37, Rutgers snapped a scoreless drought of 4:42 when Sherrod hit a driving layup to start an 11-2 run that gave the Knights a 48-44 lead. Virginia rallied for a 49-48 edge, with Billet’s 3-pointer starting the run. That started a string of two lead changes and three ties in the final 5:44.
Keith Jenifer, who scored six points in the final 3:06, hit a baseline jumper and Elton Brown made two foul shots to give Virginia a 55-51 lead. But Rutgers sandwiched 3-pointers by Coleman and Shields around two Brown foul shots to tie it 57-57 with 19.8 seconds left, giving Billet the chance to be a hero.
Billet finished with four assists and four turnovers while shooting 8-for-17. Clark had 12 points and Jenifer added nine. Shields had 14 points for Rutgers, while Sean Axani had a career-high 13. Herve Lamizana added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Virginia played without leading rebounder Travis Watson (9.3 per game), who sat out with a sprained right ankle. Nick Vander Laan picked up the slack with 11 rebounds and Jenifer had nine.
Billet made his first shot of the night on a driving layup, and proceeded to make five of his first seven shots and shoot 6-for-10 en route to 14 points and three assists in the first half.
With Virginia holding a 17-15 lead, Billet scored seven points in an 11-0 run as the Cavaliers opened a 28-15 lead.
Rutgers went 6:48 without a point, shooting 0-for-14 with two turnovers during that time. The Knights cut the deficit to 31-24 as Sean Axani scored six points in a 9-3 run, and the score was 33-24 at halftime.
Billet, whose brother Geoff played four seasons at Rutgers, averaged 14.6 points during his two seasons with the Scarlet Knights. He announced he was leaving Rutgers the same day the Knights announced the hiring of Gary Waters as head coach.