Solid play from Speed spurs victory despite stumble


HARTFORD, Conn. — Sophomore guard Nikki Speed played her second straight clean game running the point for the Rutgers women's basketball team, but she still made a big apology on the court during the second half.

Local units swarmed a sloppy pass on RU's side of the court and Speed came the closest to it, but hurtled out of bounds and into a radio announcer, spilling water all over him.

Instead of running back onto the court, she apologized profusely tried to clean up the mess her hustle created.

Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti, of all people, brought a towel to the announcer to dry of his clothes.

But it wasn't the spilled water that affected her, said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. It was the Kool-Aid.

"Nikki has played well. There must be something in the Kool-Aid," Stringer said. "She was very relaxed and attacking and feeling comfortable. … I thought she's played well the last three or four games. She's played loose."

Speed finished the game with her first 40-minute game in more than a year, dished out five assists and did not turn the ball over until the last 10 minutes of the game.

She also drew her 21st charge of the season — 14 more than anyone else on the squad.

"She also played hard defense and I think she embodies the spirit of what it means to be a Scarlet Knight," Stringer said. "She works hard and it's good to see."

Rutgers' next stop is tomorrow in the 8 p.m. time slot against third-seeded Georgetown. The last time the Knights and Hoyas faced off, No. 15 Georgetown outplayed an extremely sloppy RU team, winning 59-50.

The Scarlet Knights committed 24 turnovers and scored just 16 first half points while first team All-Big East guard Sugar Rodgers dropped 27 points.

"It's always a good thing to be able to go back and play a team that you lost to," said sophomore guard Khadijah Rushdan, who scored a team-high 18 points in their last meeting. "Our coaches will prepare us well and there are a lot of things we can improve upon that were our downfall last time."

Rutgers did not have Connecticut on the other bench, but UConn's home fans at the XL Center supported the Bearcats as if they were the Huskies themselves.

Combine the fact that Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott made her name as a player and assistant coach under Geno Auriemma with the fact that Rutgers was the last team to beat the Huskies in the regular season and it made neutral environment slightly hostile for Rutgers.

Prior to tip off, senior guard Brittany Ray received her plaque for making the All-Big East Second Team. Ray was the only Scarlet Knight to receive a post-season honor from the conference.

With her five 3-pointers on the night, Ray moved into second place all-time in Rutgers history with 184 total field goals from long range. She sunk the most 3-pointers in a Big East game in her career and the most for Rutgers since former guard Matee Ajavon in 2007 against DePaul.

 

 


Sam Hellman

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