By MATT SUGAM

Associated Press

     PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Ron Harper Jr. and Montez Mathis each scored 13 points and had six rebounds in a balanced scoring attack to lead Rutgers past Bryant 73-71 in a season opener on Thursday night.

     Adam Grant missed a three-pointer from the right wing in the final seconds as Bryant nearly upset a Big Ten opponent for the first time.

     The Scarlet Knights didn't have a scorer in double figures until Stony Brook graduate transfer Akwasi Yeboah scored on a free throw to make it 58-45 with 11:21 remaining.

     Rutgers' lead ballooned to as many as 16 on a Paul Mulcahy three-pointer with 14:41 left in the second half. Bryant cut the lead to 67-62 after a barrage of three-pointers, capped off by Patrick Harding with 2:58 remaining, then closed to 73-71 after a three-pointer by Charles Pride with 48.2 seconds left.

     Rutgers traded leads with Bryant throughout the first ten minutes of the first half before Shaq Carter gave the Scarlet Knights a 13-12 lead with 11:17 left. They never looked back, taking a 38-30 lead into the break.

     Bryant was led by Grant with 23 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while Charles Pride had 20 points and seven rebounds.

     BIG PICTURE

     Rutgers: Under the direction of fourth-year coach Steve Pikiell and returning six of seven of its top scorers, the Scarlet Knights are entering a season with the most optimism that they've had in a long time. The hope is to make the postseason, which they haven't done since their 2006 NIT appearance. They haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 1991.

     Bryant: Picked sixth out of 11 teams in the Northeast Conference preseason poll, the Bulldogs will be led by senior guard Adam Grant, who was named to the NEC preseason all-conference team.

     THREE-POINT STRUGGLES

     Rutgers had a porous night from beyond the arc, going 9 of 32. That's worse than last year's season average, which was just 31.2 percent.

     UP NEXT

     Rutgers: Hosts Niagara on Sunday.

     Bryant: Hosts Cornell on Sunday.

     AP-WF-11-08-19 0236GMT