NEWARK — While they will be in different conferences next season, the basketball rivalry between Seton Hall and Rutgers isn’t coming to an end.
Shortly after Rutgers swept the season series from Seton Hall for the first time since 2000-2001 with a 56-51 victory on Friday night, Scarlet Knights coach Mike Rice and Pirates coach Kevin Willard disclosed that the teams intend to play at least once next season.
“We will always embrace this rivalry,” Willard said after Seton Hall (14-17, 3-5 Big East) lost for the 11th time in 12 games. “We’re going to find a place in a year and we’re looking for the last week of December, play it right before New Year’s. We should be able to do it. That’s our goal.”
The Pirates will continue to play in the new Big East next season as one of the seven departing Catholic schools while Rutgers (14-15, 5-13) competes in a conference to be named before moving to the Big Ten in 2014-15.
This last Big East meeting, unless the schools somehow meet in the Big East tournament next week, drew 8,708 spectators, not bad for a contest between two teams that had combined to win two of their last 23 games.
“That’s why you play these games,” Rice said. “For the program, for the fans. It’s always entertaining and it’s something we feel is just an important win.”
Rutgers got this one because it made more plays down the stretch.
Myles Mack scored 15 points, hit two go-ahead free throws with 4:20 to play and dove on a loose ball with 21.5 seconds to go to force a tie-up that ended in a Scarlet Knights’ possession and cost Seton Hall the chance at a game-tying 3-point shot.
Jerome Seagears added 10 points and Mike Poole hit a clutch jumper with 1:41 to play and made a late steal to seal the game for the Scarlet Knights, who snapped a five-game losing streak.
“We found a way to win and this team hasn’t always found a way to win,” Rice said.
Aaron Cosby had 13 points to lead Seton Hall, which lost for the 11th time in 12 games. Brian Oliver added 12 points and Eugene Teague had 11 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 2:36 to play.
“It’s just tough, but it goes along with everything else that has been going on,” Cosby said after yet another frustrating loss in an injury-marred season.
The game had no effect on the opening round of the conference tournament on Tuesday. No. 12 seed Seton Hall will play No. 13 South Florida in the opening game at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden and No. 11 Rutgers will play No. 14 DePaul in the nightcap.
The final five-point margin marked the 17th time in 19 games that the final result was decided by six points or fewer or in overtime.
Teague gave Seton Hall its final lead, scoring on a power move inside with 5:26 to go for a 47-46 lead.
Mack put Rutgers back in front, hitting both ends of a 1-and-1 after Kyle Smyth was called for a touch foul guarding him near the top of the 3-point circle.
The next two minutes featured missed chances on both sides before Dane Miller hit two free throws for a 50-47 lead on the play that Teague fouled out.
Oliver turned the ball over under the basket for Seton Hall with 2:11 to play and Poole hit his first basket of the game on a 15-foot jumper with 1:41 to go to push the lead to 52-47.
A layup by Fuquan Edwin, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, got the Pirates to within 52-49 with 1:15 to go. A shot clock violation gave Seton Hall a chance to tie the game, but Edwin slipped on the wing and the Scarlet Knights forced the tie-up that gave them the ball on the alternating possession with 21.5 seconds left.
“This was great for us doing it instead of it happening to us,” Mack said. “This was a great feeling. Guys were jumping up. We played as a team and it was great at the end of the game.”
Malick Kone hit a free throw seconds later and Poole got the offensive rebound after the second miss to ice the game.
The second half was played in spurts with Rutgers opening with a 15-3 spurt to take a 38-28 lead and the Pirates responding with 12-2 spurt that featured two 3-pointers apiece by Cosby and Oliver.
Mack and Seagears both finished 4 of 10 from the field as neither team shot better than 40 percent from the field.