PISCATAWAY - Mike Rice got his first win for Rutgers since returning earlier this week from a three-game suspension for inappropriate behavior thanks in large part to a player who didn't start because of a minor violation of team rules.
Eli Carter came off the bench and scored 23 points and Rutgers survived a second-half rally by No. 24 Pittsburgh to post a 67-62 victory Saturday, handing the Panthers their second straight loss.
Neither Carter nor Rice would disclose what the sophomore guard did wrong, but it really didn't seem to matter after he made amends on the court.
Carter, who came off the bench for only the fourth time this season, hit a clutch 10-footer in the lane with 2 minutes, 53 seconds to go after Pittsburgh had gotten within 55-53, and Dane Miller added two free throws after James Robinson and Tray Woodall missed 3-pointers on the ensuing possession to secure the game for Rutgers (10-3, 1-1 Big East).
"It feels good to get this win," Carter said. "I wasn't really focused coming off the bench. I just played my normal game. They're a great team so it's a great win."
Pittsburgh (12-3, 0-2) trailed by 14 points at the half and twice closed the gap to two points in the final 5 minutes, the last time at 55-53 on a dunk by Steven Adams with 3:24 to play.
That's when Carter scored in the lane.
"Those are the plays that my teammates have trust in me to take," said Carter, who was averaging 17.1 points coming in. "Those are shots that I practice so I am accustomed to shooting them. It's just natural."
Myles Mack added 11 points and Miller finished with nine points and six rebounds for the Scarlet Knights, who were coming off a 78-53 loss to No. 7 Syracuse in Rice's return.
Rice said the Scarlet Knights showed more fight in his second game back.
"It was truly a team victory," he said. "Everybody kind of stepped up the last two days and they did their jobs."
Miller not only added two free throws after Carter's basket, he also had a crucial offensive rebound of a Mike Poole miss with Pittsburgh trailing 53-51. He then made a pass to Jerome Seagears for a basket.
"This was a big win coming off the loss we had up at Syracuse," Miller said. "We had to come in and think about stuff and evaluate our team individually and we just came out and had a big win. It was a big win, a ranked team and we held on to win."
J.J. Moore came off the bench and had a team-high 14 points for Pittsburgh, which was beaten 70-61 by No. 14 Cincinnati on Monday. Woodall added 11 points, but only shot 3 of 11 from the field in a game the Panthers were limited to 37.5 percent shooting.
"We obviously dug a hole for ourselves that we couldn't recover," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "It was fun in the second half, we played harder, we played better. We made some adjustments that helped and had plenty of opportunities. It's hard to come back from a 15-point deficit (actually 14) but we got it down there pretty quick and had an opportunity to get a stop and get rebound and make a layup and (didn't.) I guess when you put yourself in a hole there is little margin for error."
Pittsburgh's inability to hit from the outside caused it to trail 39-25 at halftime and only when they managed to push the ball inside and play much better defense did it get back into the game.
The Panthers limited Rutgers to six points in the opening 12 minutes of the second half to get back in the game, but they never could get over the hump.
Pittsburgh lost forward Talib Zanna late in the game when he picked up his fourth foul on a play that was ruled a flagrant foul. Carter got his final two points making the free throws on the technical.
Rutgers, which shot nearly 58 percent in the first half, hit its first six shots and 9-of-12 in racing to a 22-8 lead in the opening 8 minutes.