Rice leaves early, Knights lose late to upstart Louisville
The Rutgers men’s basketball team arrived in Louisville on Friday with little success against the Cardinals. It fell by an 18-point margin a year ago, and it last beat the relative Big East newcomer in 2005.
The Scarlet Knights added to their misfortunes against Louisville on Saturday, when they lost, 78-66, at the KFC Yum! Center.
Freshman guard Eli Carter cared little about the history.
Carter scored a game-high 24 points, surpassing 20 points for the fourth time this season and pulled down a team-high six rebounds. His 24 points were the most in a Big East game this season for the Paterson, N.J., native.
But while Carter’s efforts kept the Knights (12-12, 4-7) within striking distance, he did so without the presence of head coach Mike Rice.
Referees ejected Rice in the first half while Rutgers trailed by two points. It was the first time Rice was forced to leave a game prematurely as Rutgers’ head coach.
Rice disagreed with multiple calls and got “carried away,” according to a Rutgers Athletics Communications press release. Associate head coach David Cox took over in Rice’s absence, inheriting a 10-point deficit in the process.
But Rutgers trailed, 53-50, less than 10 minutes into the second half before Louisville (18-5, 6-4) pulled away for good.
Cardinals freshman forward Chane Behanan was the catalyst, scoring a team-high 23 points on 11-for-12 shooting. He added 11 rebounds for good measure.
The Rutgers frontcourt, meanwhile, struggled again with foul trouble. Sophomore forward Gilvydas Biruta and junior forward Austin Johnson picked up four fouls apiece.
Biruta scored only five points, took four shots and recorded one rebound in 24 minutes.
Three more Cardinals joined Behanan in double figures, while Carter stood alone for the Knights. Rutgers is 4-9 this season when less than three players score at least 10 points.
Sophomore Louisville center Gorgui Dieng was largely responsible, as he blocked seven shots to keep Rutgers off the scoreboard.
Freshman point guard Myles Mack and sophomore guard Mike Poole added nine points each in the defeat. Junior wing Dane Miller chipped in eight points and five boards in 32 minutes.
Rutgers remains in a tie for 10th place in the Big East with its neighbors to the north, Seton Hall and St. John’s. Both teams lost this weekend by more than 20 points.
Pittsburgh earned a portion of 10th place yesterday, when it defeated Villanova for its fourth straight Big East win. The Panthers began the season 0-7 in conference play.
The Knights host the Pirates on Wednesday in a game with major postseason implications. The matchup at the Louis Brown Athletic Center is the first of two meetings between the New Jersey schools.
Rutgers travels to the Prudential Center in Newark on Feb. 25. The Pirates, once among the top eight in the Big East, have lost five straight. The Knights dropped four of their last five games.
They take on three of the top four teams in the conference — Notre Dame, No. 2 Syracuse and No. 15 Marquette — afterward.
The Knights beat Notre Dame two of the past three seasons, but own little success against the Orange and the Golden Eagles.
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