Rutgers Ready For Big East Primer

Rutgers looks for its first win against from home as it travels to Pittsburgh to face Auburn on Saturday (12:30 p.m., ESPN2) in the SEC-Big East challenge. The Scarlet Knights believe the game will help prepare them for the rigors of the Big East season, which begings in three weeks.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – It isn't the test Rutgers will get later this month against North Carolina, but the different between playing the NJITs and the Marists of the world and facing Auburn relates directly to the Big East.

Auburn is young and rebuilding, but it represents the type of size and athleticism Rutgers will see regularly when conference play begins in January.

"It's why you play these games," Rutgers coach Mike Rice said ahead of Saturday's 12:30 p.m. tip-off (ESPN2) against Auburn in the SEC-Big East Invitational at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center. "The power forwards are more like wing men in the Big East, so you have to learn to play against the size and strength."

The Tigers (3-4) have undistinguished resume, having lost to UNC-Asheville, Samford, Campbell and Jacksonville, and they are young. Freshmen and sophomores play the majority of minutes, and score most of the points.

However, Auburn has size, with 6-foot-5 guards Andrew Malone and Earnest Ross, 6-10 center Rob Chubb and 6-8 power forward Kenny Gabriel.

The Tigers can be deliberate on offense, but Malone (13.7 ppg) isn't shy about shooting from 3-point range, where he is making 48.6 percent of his shots. They also rebound with high energy, and are led by Moss (7.1 rpg), Gabriel (6.1 rpg) and Chubb (5.7 ppg).

"Auburn is doing a little bit of rebuilding and developing their young players," Rice said. "But they still have BCS-type athletes."

Rutgers (5-2) already had one of these games and rolled past Miami at the Rutgers Athletic Center, and point guard James Beatty believes the Scarlet Knights are poised for another strong effort because of the visibility of the opponent.

"When you're playing a team from the SEC, or a team like Miami, you're going to bring it because they're from a more known conference," Beatty said. "It's a bigger school, and they're probably going to have some big-name players, so you're looking forward to that challenge and the moment you walk onto the floor you're locked in.

"They're 6-10, 6-11 inside, their guards are 6-5, they're athletic, they get up and down the floor, they press. Facing a team like Auburn, that will give us a good look of what we're going to face come conference time."

It is also Auburn's first game away from home while Rutgers has lost its two trips away from home.

"Every time we leave the RAC it seems like we're a different team," Rice said. "The road toughness you have to have, this team hasn't seem to have found it in the last couple of years. You stick to what we do, and we haven't done that.

"Whether it's not closing out at St. Joe's, or not executing at Princeton, we haven't stuck to the formula."


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