If Rutgers played Connecticut tough on defense, then what the Scarlet Knights did to Pittsburgh tonight on the defensive end was complete domination.
Winning 62-39 to break even in conference play, the Scarlet Knights held the Panthers to an abysmal 21 percent clip from the floor.
More important than forcing missed shots, however, was the tremendous rebounding effort on both sides. Facing the top team in the nation in rebounding margin, Rutgers out-rebounded Pittsburgh 51-35. The Scarlet Knights finished within six boards of the conference record in a Big East game.
“The most together they’ve ever been,” Rice said on WCTC’s post-game show. “... We kept attacking. To do this to as good of a rebounding team, what we did tonight was special and it just shows the potential of this young ballclub.”
Rutgers held Big East Preseason Player of the Year Ashton Gibbs to eight points, 2-of-11 shooting and 0-for-7 from three. The 39 points for Pittsburgh is the lowest scoring margin ever for any Big East team against Rutgers.
“They know,” Rice said on what has been different for Rutgers. “They know where the plays supposed to go. They know the reversals. ... You’re getting a lot of production from a lot of different individuals. ... They played with a toughness and a togetherness that they haven’t showed. This was a 40-minute, step on the back of the neck and not let them up performance.”
Junior forward Dane Miller, the emotional harbinger in the last two victories, put up a double-double effort tonight, with 11 points and 12 boards. Freshman guard Elijah Carter led Rutgers in scoring for the fifth straight game with 14 points.
Working their ways back from injury, freshmen posts Kadeem Jack and Malick Kone combined for seven points and three boards in 10 minutes.
With some momentum, Rutgers (10-7, 2-2) heads to Morgantown, W.V., for the second matchup with West Virginia in 10 days. Embarrassed in a 21-point home loss last time, the Scarlet Knights have a chance for redemption and a winning record in the Big East at the end of the week.
“We know we have to lock in and watch a lot of film on the first time we played them and be positive and fix our mistakes,” Miller said to WCTC after the game. “That’s a really good team and we need that win.”