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Rutgers wins battle of New Jersey

Rutgers' Mike Poole (32) attempts to strip the

Rutgers' Mike Poole (32) attempts to strip the ball from Seton Hall's Jordan Theodore during the opening round of the Big East Tournament. (Mar. 8, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

For anyone still in dark about what Big East tournament basketball is all about, all you had to do was check out Tuesday’s first-round game between New Jersey rivals Rutgers and Seton Hall.

In the end, it was the stars that carried the day.

Jonathan Mitchell drained four free throws and came up with a big steal in the final 20 seconds to lift Rutgers to a 76-70 overtime win.

Rutgers almost won the “Battle of New Jersey” in regulation as Mitchell drained a three-pointer with 22.2 seconds left to give the Scarlet Knights a 62-61 lead. Mike Coburn added two free throws to give Rutgers a 64-61 lead with nine seconds left.

Game over, right? Nope. Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell drained a three-pointer with one second left to tie the score at 64 and force overtime.

It was a true playground battle as Mitchell and Hazell, two longtime local rivals, went back and forth. 

"It seems like Jeremy Hazell and I have been in college basketball forever," said Mitchell, a Mount Vernon native.

For anyone who forgot who Mitchell is, he’s the hero who converted a four-point play in Rutgers’ big 77-76 win over Villanova on February 9.

Mitchell finished with 25 points. Hazell led Seton Hall with 27.

No.13 Rutgers gets fifth-seeded St. John’s in a second-round game on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

New York Sports