Knights drop ball in 'must-win' game against Orange
For a quick summary of the Rutgers women's basketball team's 76-45 loss to Syracuse yesterday, look no further than three missed opportunities.
First, a dribbling Khadijah Rushdan attempted a no-look pass to senior Myia McCurdy in transition — only McCurdy wasn't looking either. The ball sailed out of bounds and smacked a referee in the back.
Later, the Orange lost control of a possession, causing both Rushdan and center Rashidat Junaid to dive for the loose ball — only the two collided on the ground, causing the ball to roll back to Syracuse who scored seconds later.
At the end of the first half, Rushdan airmailed an inbounds pass down the court — only it was caught by Syracuse guard Tyler Ash. Ash sprinted and fired the ball at the basket from the half-court line, sinking a three as the buzzer sounded.
Add in the Scarlet Knights' 25 turnovers, and a crucial contest was turned into an emotional 31-point loss.
"This was totally uncharacteristic and unexplainable, I don't know what to say," said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. "Nothing was more important at this specific point [in the season]. Nothing was more important. This game was a must win."
The Knights made only 15 field goals in the entire game. Syracuse, on the other hand, made 11 field goals from beyond the three-point line. The Orange shot 44 percent from the floor in the game, while RU managed only 29 percent.
Senior guard Brittany Ray led the Knights in scoring with 11 points, but made only three shots from the floor out of 12 attempts. The team as a whole never fell into an offensive rhythm and repeated the same mistakes that have plagued them all season — miscues and turnovers.
"We have so many losses already, you're supposed to learn from your mistakes and learn from prior games and I still think that a lot of things aren't clicking and we aren't retaining a lot of information," Ray said. "Coach tells us one thing and sometimes we do the other so it's very frustrating."
Then, of course, came the Orange's Tyler Ash's dagger at the end of the first half — the guard's only shot of the game.
"It was a great shot by Tyler," said Orange guard Erica Morrow, who led Syracuse with 17 points. "It was a trick shot, a shot we practice and play around with and she knocked it down."
Prior to Tuesday's loss to West Virginia, it seemed the Knights turned a corner. The team rode a three-game winning streak to Morgantown, but lost both contests since then.
Both Ray and Rushdan said that the latest loss was due to a lack of effort on the team as a whole.
"It's tough," Rushdan said. "Personally, I feel absolutely terrible for the seniors because they give it their all and for them to be dealing with this is ridiculous. Its tough, it's extremely tough … we have to find something in ourselves. Coach Stringer can't do it for us."
With three games left in the regular season and an NCAA Tournament bid at risk, Ray and Rushdan each know that the time to win is now, and are trying to make their teammates know it too.
"You've got to know. You've got to know," Rushdan said. "And if Coach Stringer hasn't said it enough, we've said it. If no one knows now, they don't need to be playing."