Rutgers beats DePaul 76-57 in Big East tournament

TOM CANAVAN (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wally Judge was perfect and so was Rutgers for one of the rare times this season.

Judge hit all nine of his shots and scored a season-high 20 points to go with 10 rebounds, leading the Scarlet Knights to an impressive 76-57 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night in the first round of the Big East tournament.

''I thought for 40 minutes the energy, the intensity and the ability to play for one another was there,'' Rutgers coach Mike Rice said.

Judge had plenty of help.

Myles Mack added 19 points to help the No. 11-seeded Scarlet Knights (15-15) advance to the second round of the nation's showcase college basketball tournament for only the sixth time in 14 trips to Madison Square Garden. Jerome Seagears added 15 points and Mike Poole scored all eight of his after intermission.

Rutgers will face sixth-seeded and No. 24 Notre Dame (23-8) in the late game Wednesday night. The Irish beat the Scarlet Knights 69-66 in South Bend, Ind., in a game that came down to the final possession.

''It's exciting just to be there,'' Rice said.

Judge's 9-for-9 performance matches a Big East tournament record for accuracy. Boston College's Craig Smith in 2005 and Ricky Wright of Villanova in 2001 were both 9 of 9 in conference tournament games.

''Wally and the whole team, no matter what happened this year continued to work,'' Rice said. ''It's not a doubt in my mind that he's improved every single day because of it. It allowed him to have a night like this, a record-setting night like this. Again, shows you the potential.

Judge said the one thing that has pushed him has been the belief that Rutgers can turn it around at any point.

''Anything can happen,'' he said of March Madness. ''You've seen Connecticut do it. You've seen George Mason do it. That's how we have to play every game, like 0-0.''

The 19-point win was Rutgers' largest in a Big East tournament game and this one was a rare laugher for Rice, who will be back next season, according to university athletic director Tim Pernetti.

''I'm glad he did it but my focus completely is on this team,'' Rice said.

Cleveland Melvin had 25 points for DePaul (11-21), which ended the season with only one win in its last 17 games - and it came against Rutgers.

The win was also the second straight for the Scarlet Knights, the first time they have done that since early January. It also was only their third in the last 14 games, something that had many thinking Rice's job was in jeopardy.

Rutgers won with phenomenal shooting and strong play underneath the baskets, where it held a 36-20 rebounding edge.

The big difference was the shooting. The Scarlet Knights hit 23 of their first 33 shots, nearly 70 percent, with the remarkable statistic being their start to the second half. After shooting nearly 61 percent in the first 20 minutes, they came out and hit nine of their first 10 after intermission with Judge scoring the first two baskets inside.

The run turned a one-point lead into a double-digit margin that was never threatened.

''I thought they made six or maybe eight of their first eight shots in the second half,'' DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. ''That kind of gave them a little bit of a working margin. I thought we got a little unnerved at that point. That happened to us so many times this year. We felt like we were down further than we really were.''

Brandon Young added 15 points for DePaul, which was held to 41.6 percent shooting. The Blue Demons were horrible from long range, making only 3 of 13 attempts, but extended their streak of hitting at least one 3-pointer to 611 games.

Rutgers shot nearly 61 percent and outrebounded DePaul 17-8 in the first half, with the margin coming courtesy of a last-second 3-pointer by Mack, who was 8 of 15 from the field.

The reason it was so close was Rutgers' 11 turnovers, which led to a 13-2 Blue Demon advantage on points off the miscues.

Neither team led by more than five points in a half which featured six lead changes. There were also some gaffes by the teams that combined to win seven of 36 conference games, with Rutgers getting five of those.

The win also provided a small measure of revenge for Rutgers, which not only lost to DePaul in Chicago recently but also saw leading scorer Elijah Carter break his right leg in the loss.

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