Piscataway, NJ – Eli Carter scored 23 points to help Rutgers earn a 67-62 win over 24th-ranked Pittsburgh at the RAC.
Myles Mack added 11 points, Dane Miller chipped in nine and Wally Judge hit a pair of crucial baskets on the way to eight, as the Scarlet Knights (10-3, 1-1 Big East) bounced back from Wednesday's 25-point loss at Syracuse.
J.J. Moore scored 14 points and Tray Woodall contributed 11 for Pittsburgh (12-3, 0-2), which played a true road game for the first time this season and dropped its second straight to start the conference ledger.
The Panthers, coming off a 70-61 setback to Cincinnati on Monday, trailed this one by as many as 16 late in the first half and whittled the deficit to 55-53 with 3 1/2 minutes to play after a dunk by Steven Adams.
Carter then drove to the basket and hit a short shot in the lane to push the lead back to four and the Panthers couldn't get any closer. Pittsburgh didn't make another field goal until the final 30 seconds.
The game evolved into a free throw shooting contest, as Rutgers outscored Pitt 7-1 from the stripe to open a 64-54 advantage with 36 seconds left. Five quick Panther points cut the margin in half with 17 seconds to play, but Jerome Seagers drained a pair from the line for the Scarlet Knights and Moore's trey from the right corner with six seconds left drew iron to end Pitt's desperate comeback attempt.
Rutgers won the game at the line, converting 17-of-20 free throws. The Scarlet Knights also shot 51.2 percent from the field, but the Panthers stayed in the game by converting 17 Rutgers turnovers into 22 points.
"It was truly a team victory," said Rutgers coach Mike Rice. "Everybody kind of stepped up the last two days and they did their jobs. (Against Syracuse), when we were punched, we blinked and backed up, and today we didn't."
After a layup by Adams opened the game, Rutgers followed with the next 12 points. Miller scored five during the surge and hit a three for a 12-2 edge.
The Scarlet Knights connected on their first six shots of the game and raced out to a 22-8 advantage, but the Panthers battled back with the next seven and trimmed the deficit to 24-18 on a Woodall triple with just over eight minutes left in the half.
Carter scored the next five to ignite a 10-1 run for Rutgers, which led by as many as 16 before a layup by Moore sent Pitt into the break down 39-25.
The Panthers started the second half with the first nine points and thoughts of Syracuse's 24-0 run on Wednesday must have begun creeping into the heads of the Scarlet Knights.
Judge, though, ended the drought for Rutgers with a jumper. The Panthers kept clawing back and pulled within 45-42 on a transition layup by Lamar Patterson with just over eight minutes remaining, but Judge again stemmed the tide with jumper from the elbow and a Pitt turnover led to a layup by Mack to extend the Rutgers margin to seven.
"I give Rutgers credit; they obviously got off to a great start," said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. "It looked like we were going to get off to a great start with the layup by Steve, but as the half progressed we dug a hole that we couldn't recover from. We responded in the second half and we played hard. We made some adjustments and that helped, but it's hard to come back from a 15- point deficit."
The Panthers shot just 37.5 percent and made 8-of-26 from beyond the arc after an 0-for-10 showing from distance on Monday against Cincinnati ... Rutgers improved to 7-11 all-time in Big East home openers, but hadn't won a home conference opener since the 2005-06 season ... Pittsburgh had won six straight at the RAC.