Auburn hit just 30.2 percent of its field goals and was out-rebounded 46-33 by the Scarlet Knights, who improved to 6-2. Auburn, playing its first game away from home this season, fell to 3-5.
Rutgers used its large rebounding edge to take a 20-2 advantage in second-chance points. Those extra opportunities allowed the Scarlet Knights to build as much as a 17-point lead in the second half before the Tigers rallied late and cut the margin into single digits.
Auburn led 7-0 early and was down just 29-24 at halftime, but the Tigers were outscored 22-8 to allow Rutgers to build a 51-34 lead before Auburn began a comeback led by Kenny Gabriel, who finished with 18 points.
Auburn cut the margin to 57-50 on a Gabriel three-pointer from the corner with 1:34 remaining, but that was as close as the Tigers could get the rest of the game that was played at the Consol Energy Center, the home court of the Pitt Panthers. Pitt played Tennessee in the second half of the doubleheader.
"We got dominated on the backboard and that was the bottom line in the game," Barbee said. "We played well enough defensively to win this game. We held them to 33 percent (field goal shooting). They had 17 offensive rebounds. If they just get half of those offensive rebounds, maybe it is a different game."
Gabriel, who tied his career high for points, took just seven shots from the field and made four. He was 3-5 on treys and added three rebounds.
Earnest Ross shot the ball 14 times for the Tigers, but he made just four as he scored 15 points. Ross, who was 1-7 on threes, was 6-7 at the foul line.
Andre Malone was Auburn's other double figures scorer with 10 points, but he made just 4-12 field goals and hit just 1-7 threes.
The Tigers didn't get much help from their big men. Rob Chubb scored five points and had just one rebound. Adrian Forbes didn't score or grab a rebound.
Barbee said the difference in rebounds was disappointing. "It is something that hasn't happened to us all year long,"?he noted. "It can't or you are going to lose that game every time."
Rutgers center Dane Miller led his team in scoring and rebounding with 17 points and 10 boards. The 6-7 sophomore nearly doubled his season average for points and rebounds.
Jonathan Mitchell, a 6-7 senior forward, added 14 points and seven rebounds for Rutgers.
For the game Auburn hit 6-23 threes while Rutgers made 7-22.
Both teams shot well from the free throw line. Auburn hit 16-20 and Rutgers made 16-19.
Auburn turned the ball over time nine times, one fewer time than the Scarlet Knights.
Barbee's Tigers will return to action on Wednesday at 8 p.m. CST in Tampa vs. South Florida.