Despite an 11 a.m. ET tip-off in Piscataway, N.J., Rutgers came out with energy and purpose in the early minutes of its matchup with No. 24 Pittsburgh Saturday, surviving a second-half push from the Panthers to get an upset win at home, 67-62.
Eli Carter led the way for Rutgers with 23 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the floor and 10-of-10 shooting from the free throw line.
The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over 18 times on the game, which kept the game close in the second half. It was the biggest factor that allowed Pittsburgh to cut into a 14-point halftime deficit at the start of the second half with a 9-0 run.
The Panthers trimmed the lead to as little as two points with close to four minutes remaining after a Durand Johnson bank three-pointer, but Dane Miller threaded a pass to Jerome Seagears for a layup to push the lead back to four.
Pittsburgh had success early in the second half by slowing Rutgers’ transition game that had built the 14-point halftime lead. Stuck in the half-court, Rutgers had trouble controlling the basketball and slipped out of rhythm.
That changed in the final three minutes, as Pittsburgh went 0-of-5 from three-point range and freed the Scarlet Knights from half-court set. That opened up the full-court game that had given Rutgers success in the first half. Pittsburgh shot 7-of-25 from three-point range on the game.
With Rutgers up six points and just over 1:35 to play, Pittsburgh senior Talib Zanna was called for a technical foul for pushing Rutgers forward Wally Judge. That gave the Scarlet Knights three foul shots and possession, which ultimately sealed the game with the help of a 9-1 run.
After going 12-1 in the non-conference and finally cracking into the Top 25, Jamie Dixon’s Pittsburgh Panthers are now 0-2 in the Big East, following this loss and a loss earlier in the week to Cincinnati.
Poor shooting from the floor and a -8 rebounding margin hurt Dixon’s team Saturday. Senior Tray Woodall, in a homecoming of sorts returning to New Jersey, shot just 3-of-11 from the floor, though he worked well as a facilitator with eight assists.
Zanna, coming into the game averaging over six rebounds per game, had just one on Saturday. He was outworked by a rebounding patchwork from Rutgers, with six players tallying at least four rebounds.