The Scarlet Knights trailed by 10 points less than six minutes in, and by 17 in the first half before cutting Louisville's deficit to four points.
However, like many times before, the early deficit was too much to overcome as the Scarlet Knights fell to the Cardinals 76-60 Saturday at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.
Rutgers (11-12, 2-9 Big East) had its two-game winning streak ended and was led by Jonathan Mitchell's 17 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds and had seven assists in a career-high 40 minutes.
"I think the Big East is very difficult,'' Rutgers coach Fred Hill told reporters after the game. "The road is always difficult; again this isn't a typical 16 point loss. It was 45-40 – it's a shot here and a shot there. You've got to foul a little at the end; you've got to press and gamble to get a layup and one.
"This is one of those games where you're in the game right until the end battling on the road. I think it's a step forward for our guys on the road, because in some games it's been over before it started.''
The Scarlet Knights cut an 11-point halftime deficit to 47-43 less than four minutes after intermission when Rosario hit a 3-pointer.
But Louisville responded quickly with a back-to-back 3-pointers from Smith and Jared Swopshire as the Cardinals extended their lead to 53-43.
The Scarlet Knights never got close than seven points the rest of the way.
"We limited our turnovers to 10, we had nine steals,'' Hill said. "We just couldn't knock a big shot down when we needed it. It was 45-40, we get an offensive foul called, and it kind of changed the momentum. We get a couple of free looks, and couldn't get over the hump. You have to give them credit, they come after you.
"I thought the real difference what that they wore us down. Constant pressure wears you down. …They have so many bodies they can just keep throwing at you and they wore us down."
Rutgers was forced to rally because of another slow start.
Samuels' dunk just 5:47 in gave Louisville a 15-5 lead. A Terrence Jennings lay-in made it 24-9 midway through the half, and Rakeem Buckles' two free throws pushed the Cardinals lead to a game-high 34-17 with 7:32 left in the half.
"I thought we did what we wanted to do,'' Hill said. "They made shots, but you talk about their pressure – it might be the best in the country. They turn people over. We have 10 turnovers for the game. One of them is on the charge, it's not against the press. We handled it extremely well.
"I think it really came down to we didn't shoot the ball particularly well and they did.''