Rutgers hands Pittsburgh 5th straight loss, 62-39Rutgers' Jerome Seagears, right, strips the ball from Pittsburgh's Nasir Robinson (35) in the first half of the NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Eli Carter scored 14 points, Dane Miller added 11 points and 12 rebounds and Rutgers crushed reeling Pittsburgh 62-39 on Tuesday night.
The Scarlet Knights (10-7, 2-2 Big East) held the Panthers to 21 percent shooting (12 of 57) while sending Pittsburgh to its fifth straight loss, the longest losing streak in coach Jamie Dixon's nine years on the bench.
Rutgers, coming off a 67-60 upset of defending national champion UConn last week, backed it up with an even more impressive win over the defending conference champions.
Pittsburgh (11-6, 0-4) never led over the game's final 30 minutes while suffering the worst loss in 10 seasons at the Petersen Events Center.
The Panthers used to be unbeatable at the Pete, but have now dropped four home games in a little over two months.
Dixon has worried the Panthers have been too reliant on senior point guard Ashton Gibbs, who is averaging a career-high 35 minutes while taking care of the ball handling duties in place of injured point guard Tray Woodall.
Gibbs, the preseason Big East Player of the Year, insisted the Panthers just needed to dig in.
Instead, Pitt ended up digging an even bigger hole. Gibbs slogged through 31 lifeless minutes, finishing with eight points on 2-of-11 shooting. He missed all seven of his 3-point attempts and turned it over three times, all of them coming in the opening minutes when the improved Scarlet Knights showed their victory over the Huskies on Saturday was no fluke.
Rutgers won its second straight by dominating the Panthers on the defensive end. Pitt came in leading the nation in rebounding margin, grabbing 13.3 more boards per game than the opposition. The Scarlet Knights outrebounded the Panthers 51-35, outscored them in the paint 23-14 and blocked six shots while forcing 15 turnovers.
Though Rutgers was hardly crisp, turning it over 16 times, it didn't matter as the Panthers' freefall continued with no end in sight. Pitt travels to No. 25 Marquette and No. 1 Syracuse over the weekend before hosting No. 14 Louisville on Jan. 21.
Who knows what the season will look like then for the team picked to finish fourth in the Big East in the preseason.
The Panthers certainly miss Woodall, but there was something lacking on both ends of the floor.
JJ Moore led Pitt with 10 points and Nasir Robinson had seven points and nine boards but the Panthers couldn't get out of their own way.
During one first-half sequence, forward Talib Zanna laid out to save a loose ball, tapping it to teammate Isaiah Epps. Zanna then hopped up and rolled to the basket, where John Johnson tried to feed him for a layup. The ball caromed off Zanna's hands and out of bounds, Pitt's frustrating season wrapped up in 10 seconds.
As bad as the Panthers were, Rutgers needed time to get itself together while overcoming early turnover issues. Every time the Panthers clanked a shot, the Scarlet Knights seemed to return the favor by giving the ball right back.
They settled down late in the first half with Miller asserting himself against Pitt's lethargic front line. Miller spearheaded an 11-2 run to end the first half, the final basket coming on a tip-in just before the buzzer sounded to give the Scarlet Knights a 30-19 lead at the break.
Rutgers raced to the locker room with momentum, while one of the Big East's most animated home crowds fell silent as the seemingly unthinkable happened again.
Pitt never challenged in the second half, eventually falling behind by 20 as boos - yes, boos - rained down as Rutgers put the finishing touches on the Panthers' ugliest home loss in more than a decade.