PITTSBURGH (AP) Dane Miller had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Rutgers overcame an early seven-point deficit to beat cold-shooting Auburn 63-54 on Saturday in the SEC-Big East Invitational.
The game, staged before No. 11 Tennessee played No. 3 Pittsburgh, was a homecoming for first-year Rutgers coach Mike Rice. The former Pitt assistant coached Robert Morris, a Pittsburgh-area school, to a near-upset of Villanova in the NCAA tournament last season.
Jonathan Mitchell added 14 points and James Beatty 13 for Rutgers (6-2), which won its third in a row.
Kenny Gabriel scored 18 and Earnest Ross had 15 points for Auburn (3-5), but Ross made only 4 of 14 shots as the Tigers shot 30.2 percent (16 of 53).
Auburn opened a 7-0 lead as Rutgers missed its first 12 shots, but the Scarlet Knights came back with a 15-0 run that lasted nearly four minutes and changed an 11-4 deficit into a 19-11 lead.
Austin Carroll’s two free throws with 8:41 remaining closed out the run after Miller’s 3-pointer gave the Knights their first lead at 12-11.
After leading 29-24 at the half, Rutgers opened the second half with an 8-0 run that made it 37-24. After that, the Tigers – who shot 28.6 percent in the first half and were only marginally better in the second – never threatened to retake the lead.
Rutgers didn’t shoot much better, 33.9 percent (20 of 59), but outrebounded the Tigers 46-33 as eight players had at least four rebounds each.
Rutgers hasn’t allowed more than 59 points in any of its six victories.
This is the first time since 1999 that Rutgers has beaten schools from two BCS conferences, other than the Big East, in the same season. The Knights previously beat Miami of the Atlantic Coast Conference 61-45.
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