Rutgers falls to Cincy in Big East opener

Jonathan Mitchell scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but Rutgers dropped a 65-58 decision to Cincinnati in the Big East opener. Scarlet Knights sophomore Mike Rosario was 4 of 19 from the field and Rutgers was out-rebounded badly in dropping a second straight game. Deonta Vaughn scored a game-high 17 points for the Bearcats.

Keep it close only to see the opportunity for a big win squandered in the final minutes. For the second time in less than a week, Rutgers suffered that fate.

This time it was at the hands of Cincinnati in the Big East opener, where the Scarlet Knights were tied with less than six minutes to play but fell 65-58 Saturday at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Junior forward Jonathan Mitchell had a strong performance, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds, but it wasn't enough to counter a poor shooting performance from leading scorer Mike Rosario.

Rosario, a sophomore, was 4 of 19 from the field and finished with 12 points. He also turned the ball over four times as Rutgers (9-4, 0-1 Big East) lost for the second consecutive game. The Scarlet Knights lost to No. 10 North Carolina last week.

"Mike has to score for us and he's going to be the focal point of every defense,'' Rutgers coach Fred Hill told reporters after the game. "They did a good job of staying home on him and not letting him get very many good looks. On the other hand, I thought his teammates did a good job of setting solid screens and getting him good looks. They just didn't go down in the second half.

"When you don't rebound, you can't run as much as we've been able to run in some earlier games and even against North Carolina. A lot of what Mike gets is in transition and we weren't able to get out and run because we didn't rebound the basketball. I thought that slowed us down tonight."

Cincinnati (10-3, 2-0) was led in scoring by Deonta Vaughn's 17 points. Freshman Lance Stephenson added 10 points for the Bearcats, who held a 40-28 advantage on the boards.

"Rutgers gave us their best shot and we had to come from behind,'' Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. " There were a couple of things that changed the game for us, our offensive rebounding and obviously our bench outscoring their bench 34 to 15 points.

"We're a team that has some options and we can make some changes and adjustments. It's nice to be able to make some adjustments and play different guys."

The Bearcats jumped to a 10-2 lead, but Rutgers chipped away and ended the first half on a 9-0 run, thanks to a 3-pointer by Mitchell and two 3-pointers from Rosario, to take a 30-25 lead. And a key component for Rutgers' defense was an active 2-3 zone.

The Scarlet Knights extended their lead to 39-33 on a pair of Mike Coburn free throws before Cincinnati rallied.

"We hadn't seen a lot of two-three zone this year,'' Cronin said. "I thought that their zone definitely had us stagnant for quite a while. We hadn't seen a live zone situation in almost two months. We work against it in practice but it's not the same.

"They had us really standing around in the zone, plus we didn't rebound well against their zone. But once we got some offensive rebounds, got some basket, got our feet set underneath us and got set on the defensive end the game changed."

A 3-pointer by Rutgers freshman Dane Miller tied it 51-51, but backup point guard James Beatty fouled Rashad Bishop on a 3-point attempt with 5:44 remaining. Bishop made all three free throws and Yancy Gates added a lay-in to push Cincinnati's lead to 56-51.

Vaughn then capped the game with a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left to put the Bearcats up 64-56.

"We're not a very good rebounding team yet,'' Hill said. "It's something that we work on every day and we've got to get better at. It's something that unfortunately is not a strong suit yet.

"Our guards have gotten better at it, and Dane Miller grabbed six rebounds. I thought Brian Okam gave us some very solid minutes also. It's just something we have got to get better at. It has been our Achilles heel all year long. I think rebounding was the difference in the game especially in the second half.''

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