Piscataway, N.J. – Rutgers (9-3, 0-1) plays its second consecutive nationally-ranked opponent when it welcomes Pittsburgh (12-2, 0-1) to the RAC on Saturday (Jan. 5) for an 11 a.m. tip-off. The Panthers are ranked No. 22 by ESPN/USA Today and No. 24 in the AP poll. The Scarlet Knights are 6-11 all-time in BIG EAST home openers and last earned a victory in its initial conference contest at the RAC in 2005-06, courtesy of an 82-78 win over Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights have defeated three of the last five nationally ranked opponents to enter the truncated pyramid, all of which were top 10 foes.
Drums of Thunder, the highly-entertaining percussion group featuring 4th and 5th grade students from the Hillside Elementary School in Montclair, N.J., will perform at halftime.
The game will be televised live nationally in high definition on ESPN2 and via the web at WatchESPN.com with Mike Crispino calling the action and Seth Greenberg providing the analysis. On the radio, the contest will be broadcast live on the Rutgers Radio Network, WOR 710 AM in New York and WCTC 1450 AM in New Brunswick, as well as on Sirius 123 and XM 190. Chris Carlin will serve as play-by-play announcer and Dick Lloyd will provide commentary.
Saturday afternoon’s contest marks the 48th meeting between the schools on the hardwood dating back to 1915, with Rutgers holding a 24-23 series advantage. Rutgers is 11-12 all-time at home against Pitt, 7-7 at the RAC and 7-14 in BIG EAST regular season play. The last six match-ups at the RAC have been decided by single digits or in overtime. Last season, Dane Miller (Rochester, N.Y.) had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds and freshman guard Eli Carter (Paterson, N.J.) added 14 points to help Rutgers to a convincing 62-39 victory at the Petersen Events Center. The 23-point win marked the largest margin of victory for the Scarlet Knights on the road in BIG EAST play and the largest margin of victory over a conference opponent since 2004.
Rutgers is coming off a 78-53 loss at No. 7/7 Syracuse on Wednesday night. Carter shot 7-of-13 and 5-of-10 from behind the arc to score 19 points. The Orange utilized a 24-0 run over the end of the first half and the beginning of the second to earn the victory in the BIG EAST opener for both schools. Sophomore forward Kadeem Jack (Queens, N.Y.) complemented Carter by grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds. The Scarlet Knights established a 38-34 advantage on the glass.
Carter leads the BIG EAST and ranks 16th nationally in free throw percentage (90.5), while also placing seventh in the league in scoring (17.1). Fellow St. Anthony product Myles Mack (Paterson, N.J.) is second in the Conference in free throw percentage (89.7), third in three-point field goal percentage (.478) and eighth in field goal percentage (.566). Junior power forward Wally Judge (Washington, D.C.) is seventh in the league in field goal percentage (.571) and 13th in rebounding (6.8). As a team, the Scarlet Knights lead the BIG EAST in free throw percentage (.736).
Pittsburgh, under the leadership of 10th-year head coach Jamie Dixon, dropped a 70-61 home decision to No. 14/15 Cincinnati on Monday. The Bearcats shot 29.6 percent in the first half, but made 54.2 percent of its shots after the break to secure the win. Forward Talib Zanna, who leads Pitt in scoring (13.4), had a team-high 16 points. Pittsburgh was 0-for-10 from 3-point range, finishing without a trifecta in a BIG EAST regular season game for the first time since a 0-for-9 showing against Providence on Feb. 21, 1998. The Panthers leads the BIG EAST in scoring defense (52.5), field goal percentage (.513), rebounding defense (25.8) and assist/turnover ratio (2.0).