Rushdan down with knee injury as Knights falter
On the road against No. 16 Georgia, the Rutgers women's basketball team needed a big performance to stay close in Athens. While they got the showing they needed, the Scarlet Knights came a hair short of the upset, falling to the Bulldogs 49-48.
Sophomore forward April Sykes threw up the final shot for RU, a three-pointer that bounced off the rim as time expired, dropping RU to 0-3 on the Bulldogs' home court.
With 7:15 to play, the Knights had amassed a 12-point lead, but a 15-2 run pushed Georgia back on top, fueled by 29 RU turnovers on the day.
"In a game like this, we needed to reduce a lot of things, especially the turnovers," said head coach C. Vivian Stringer to the Associated Press. "It would have helped a lot if we had had a point guard."
The Knights may have lost something more important than the game.
With fewer than four minutes to play, sophomore guard Khadijah Rushdan went down with an apparent knee injury. Rushdan had to be carried off the floor and would not return in the game, according to the press release.
The loss overshadowed a career day from senior center Rashidat Junaid.
Though her jersey reads No. 43, Junaid stepped on the court yesterday and gave a performance worthy of No. 15 — that of her former teammate, Kia Vaughn. Junaid finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and a steal for RU.
With Vaughn starting at center over the past three seasons, Junaid played primarily in a backup capacity. Now the number one option at center, the senior recorded her first double-double since her sophomore year.
Junaid's 11 boards marked a game high for both teams.
"One key for this team all year is going to be rebounding," Stringer said going into yesterday's matchup. "There's no question that we have to rebound and not turn the ball over, and we have to make sure we're not getting hurt in transition."
The Knights pounded the Bulldogs on the boards, outrebounding Georgia by a whopping 45-31 margin. The team finished with 11 blocked shots and were able to hold Georgia to only 49 points on an abysmal 25.4 shooting percentage.
While the defense kept them in it, turnovers proved to be RU's downfall. The Scarlet Knights' 29 turnovers led to 29 of the Bulldogs' points — over half of their total scoring.
Freshman forward Monique Oliver continued her strong start to the season, finishing just shy of a double-double of her own with 11 points and seven boards. It is the first time Oliver scored in double digits this year.
Up 16-11 with just over seven minutes to play in the first half, RU could not hold their lead. The Bulldogs surged back, going on a 14-5 run to close out the period and enter halftime with a 25-21 advantage.
The Knights continue their road trip with three games in the Virgin Islands, when they travel to St. Thomas to compete in the Paradise Jam.
But the stretch serves as no vacation for RU, who will meet by two ranked opponents in No. 10 Texas and No. 25 Mississippi State. The Knights tip off against Southern California on Thanksgiving Day.
The tournament, which runs from Thursday through Saturday, has the team playing three straight games on consecutive days with no rest in between.
The game against Mississippi State on Friday marks the first time the two teams face one another. Texas holds a 6-5 all time series lead over RU, while the Scarlet Knights hold a 4-2 edge over the Trojans.