GREENSBORO, N.C. — Rutgers guard Eli Carter almost wore himself out trying to keep the offense flowing at an efficient clip Sunday afternoon.
Carter scored a season-high 25 points and teammate Myles Mack hit a crucial 3-point basket with less than two minutes remaining as Rutgers fended off UNC Greensboro 87-80.
“I was a little winded,” Carter said of the pace. “I was worn out.”
Carter and Mack wore out the UNC Greensboro backcourt as Rutgers (4-1) won its fourth game in a row.
Mack’s 3 gave the Scarlet Knights an 80-73 edge and he followed that by a steal and driving layup. Mack, a sophomore guard, finished with a career-best 24 points, hitting 9-of-11 shots from the field.
“Eli Carter hit a couple really tough shots and Mack, I think, hit one,” UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller said. “When they made good shots, I thought it really took the air out of us.”
Derrell Armstrong scored 25 points for UNC Greensboro (1-4), which lost its third game in a row and remained winless against Division I opponents. Trevis Simpson added 16 points for the Spartans.
Rutgers shot 57.4 percent (31-of-54) for the game, but UNC Greensboro held a 40-30 rebounding advantage in the first-ever meeting between the teams.
The sometimes-frantic tempo was preferred by the Scarlet Knights.
“It was a pace we want to play,” Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. “It’s a pace we practice.”
Rice said the Scarlet Knights run their offense through the combination of Carter and Mack for a reason.
“They’re hard to guard,” Rice said. “They allow (our) offense to get them advantages.”
With that in mind, Carter said it’s essential that the backcourt mates produce. He made 9-of-15 shots from the field.
“I usually have to score,” he said. “That’s the role I take. The coaches make plays to give us an advantage. It’s on us to make the shots and today I had it going.”
Mack and Carter accounted for 23 of the Scarlet Knights’ first 27 points.
UNC Greensboro led by 10 points late in the first half. The game’s final five minutes, though, spelled doom again.
“You have to dig down and fight through,” Armstrong said. “The most disappointing part is not closing out.”
Rutgers cut into the deficit, with Carter’s 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer making it 43-40. The Scarlet Knights, who were playing their first game out of New Jersey this season, trailed at the half for the first time despite hitting on 56.7 percent (17-for-30) in the first half.
Rutgers scored the game’s first eight points, but the Spartans pulled ahead at 15-14 on Armstrong’s 3-pointer. He hit four 3-point baskets in the first 17 minutes, propelling the Spartans to a 39-31 edge.
Armstrong had 16 points in the first half.
UNC Greensboro held a 26-23 lead by the time Korey Van Dussen scored on a fast break. Simpson’s basket in transition lifted the Spartans to a 41-31 cushion.