PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers coach Mike Rice did not like being down by six at halftime, but enjoyed the way his team responded to the situation.
"Absolutely loved it," said Rice, after Jonathan Mitchell scored 16 points and sparked the game's decisive run in Rutgers' 64-48 win over Marist on Tuesday night.
"The coaching staff said (at halftime) this will be interesting to see how they respond," Rice said. "They have to become less fragile. Whatever happens you have to defend every possession.
"I like this team; they're getting a little tougher skin and that's what they'll need for the games moving forward."
Freshman Gilvydas Biruta had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double, while Mike Coburn added 14 points and Dane Miller 12 for the Scarlet Knights (5-2), who improved to 5-0 at home for the first time since 2007.
Forward Mike Poole came off the bench for four points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
After letting a nine-point first-half lead slip, Rutgers trailed 33-25 early in the second before scoring 11 straight to take the lead for good. With the score 38-37, Mitchell hit two 3-pointers and converted a three-point play during a 15-2 run. That gave the Knights a 53-39 lead with 7:25 remaining.
Marist, which committed 21 turnovers and shot 27 percent (13 for 47), got no closer than nine from that point, and Rutgers opened its largest lead at 64-46.
"Nothing changed with me," said Miller, who shot 4 for 4 in the second half. "I was just aggressive and stepped in and knocked shots down."
With a chance to bury Marist early, Rutgers failed to take advantage of some poor Red Fox shooting. Marist made just two of its first 13 shots and committed nine turnovers in the game's first 12 minutes, but the Scarlet Knights could only take a 16-7 lead.
The Red Foxes closed the half by making six of their final nine, while Rutgers went just 2 for 15 and allowed Marist to take a 27-21 lead. The Red Foxes scored the final seven points to erase a 21-20 deficit.
"When you don't have somebody you can just throw the ball to in the low post or that tremendous wing scorer -- that's not who we are -- there are times it's going to be a struggle offensively," Rice said. "Just as long as we continue working the ball and playing for one another -- I thought we did that, we just didn't knock down shots."
Marist held its advantage despite shooting 8 for 22 (36.4 percent) with 12 turnovers in the half. The Knights were even colder, shooting 9 for 31 (29 percent) after hitting four of their first seven.
Rice urged his team to make it a dogfight at halftime and the Knights responded by shooting 55.2 percent after intermission and 41.7 percent for the game (25 of 60).
"I think a lot of guys came through with relentlessness," Rice said. "Instead of being on our heels, we dictated in the second half and a lot of different individuals stepped up. We took a step forward tonight."
Mitchell agreed with his coach.
"We were down six at halftime, that's adversity right there and coach challenged us to play Rutgers basketball," the senior forward said. "We had to overcome it, make it a dog fight and grind it up."