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Carter lifts Rutgers to victory off the bench

The SportsXchange

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers sophomore Eli Carter violated team rules and did not start against No. 24 Pitt on Saturday.

But after his leading scorer poured in 23 points off the bench in a 67-62 victory, Scarlet Knights coach Mike Rice is contemplating making Carter a permanent reserve.

Myles Mack added 11 points for the Scarlet Knights (10-3, 1-1 in the Big East), who dropped their conference opener at Syracuse on Wednesday night.

Pitt (12-3, 0-2) will stay on the road and play at No. 15 Georgetown Tuesday night. J.J. Moore led the Panthers with 14 points.

It was the second-highest point total of the season for Carter, who was 6-for-14 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line.

"He does add a nice punch off the bench," Rice said. "I'll have to look at it. Opposing teams get winded and then he comes in and does what he does."

The Scarlet Knights shot 51 percent from the field and made their first six shots en route to a 19-5 lead in the opening minutes. Pitt had a hard time defending Carter and Mack in the early going and fell behind by 14 points at halftime.

The Panthers, who entered the game shooting a Big-East best 51.2 percent from the floor, made 37 percent of their shots Saturday.

Rice concentrated his defensive efforts on shutting down leading scorer junior forward Talib Zanna, who entered the game averaging 13 points per game.

Zanna finished with nine points, and the Panthers could not make the Scarlet Knights pay for packing the paint. They were 8-for-26 from 3-point range.

"We took way too many 3s," senior guard Tray Woodall said. "We settled. We thought it was fool's gold."

Trailing, 39-25, at halftime, Pitt scored the first nine points of the second half to cut the lead to five. Rutgers turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes of the second half to allow the Panthers to climb back into the game.

The Panthers cut the lead to three points on Lamar Patterson' layup with 8:06 remaining, and to two points twice in the final 4:23, but a turnover and missed shots did them in.

Rutgers was able to make some big shots down the stretch, including Carter's drive with 2:53 remaining that gave the Scarlet Knights a 57-53 lead.

"We still go through stretches where we get in our own way, but we had toughness," Rice said. "When we had to execute a tough shot we did that."

Rice thought the biggest play in the game was made by senior forward Dane Miller, who grabbed an offensive rebound and dished to Jerome Seagears for a basket that made it 55-51 after Pitt's Durand Johnson banked in a 3-pointer.

"It was a huge play," Rice said. "That gave us some confidence. That gave us some energy."

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon pointed to the team's perimeter defense and inability to rebound as the answers for the loss. The Panthers were beaten on the boards, 36-24. It was the second consecutive game they were out-rebounded.

"We're emphasizing blocking out," Dixon said. "It's a team thing. I look (at the statistics) and our leading rebounder has four. That's hard to believe."

Rutgers put on a sizzling shooting display in the first half. The Scarlet Knights shot 58 percent from the field and made 6-of-10 shots from 3-point range.

Carter scored 14 of his points in the first 20 minutes. He was 5-for-9 from the field and made two 3-pointers. Mack also made two 3-pointers and scored nine points in the first half.

NOTES: Pitt had won six consecutive games at Rutgers, last losing at Piscataway in 2001. ... Rutgers has defeated four of the last six nationally ranked teams it had faced. ... The Scarlet Knights improved to 7-11 in Big East home openers. They had not won a home conference opener since beating Seton Hall in the 2005-06 season. ... Eli Carter did not start for the fourth time this season.
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