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January 30, 2008
Coburn leads Rutgers to surprising wins
There were a lot of the usual suspects for Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week award.
Five-star prospects were tearing it up throughout the country. Michael Beasley was running rampant in the Big 12, and Kevin Love returned home to help UCLA cut a swath through the state of Oregon. Jerryd Bayless was back in form as Arizona swept the Pac-10's Washington schools.
But none of them led his team to two wins over ranked teams last week like Rutgers guard Mike Coburn. The host Scarlet Knights knocked off No. 18 Villanova 80-68 for their first victory in the Big East this season and their first over a ranked opponent in two years. They followed up by winning at No. 13 Pittsburgh 77-64. The Panthers are the highest-ranked team Rutgers has beaten on the road in school history, and it was just the eighth loss for Pittsburgh in 100 games at the Petersen Events Center.
"Toward the middle of the second half (at Pittsburgh) we started to turn it up and made a nice run," Coburn told Rivals.com. "We got up by a good amount and kept the lead. We did a good job of taking care of the ball, making free throws and finishing it together as a team.
"Pittsburgh is great at home, and to get a win on the road it was a great feeling. We believed in ourselves."
Coburn, a 6-footer from Mount Vernon, N.Y., averaged 20 points and 4.0 assists to earn Rivals.com's national freshman honor. He made all five of his 3-pointers in the two games, and he shot a combined 59.1 percent (13 of 22) from the floor. He established a career high with 23 points against Villanova, and he followed up with 17 and five assists against Pittsburgh.
"I'm really adjusting now to the speed of the game," Coburn said. "My confidence is up tremendously and I'm more comfortable. I think I'm making better decisions."
Rutgers may have surprised the nation, but Coburn said the Scarlet Knights haven't surprised themselves.
"We knew from the beginning we could play with teams in the Big East," Coburn said. "Our shots are falling, we're playing together and playing hard. If we continue to do that, we'll give ourselves a chance to win a lot more."
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.