Speed's OT threes give RU new Tourney life
HARTFORD, Conn. — The Rutgers women's basketball team managed only one three-point basket against No. 12 Georgetown last night through regulation.
The shot came from senior guard Brittany Ray — the only shot she made all game — before she was firmly planted on the bench after fouling out in regulation.
But it was Nikki Speed's game-tying three with two seconds left in the first overtime that breathed just a little more life into the Scarlet Knights.
And it was Speed's banked three in the second overtime that ultimately won the game, 63-56, and propelled the Knights into the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.
"I'll say it's the biggest [shot I've ever made]," the sophomore guard said. "I wasn't even really thinking about it. All of us kept saying we're not going home, and I remember B-Ray said last year we lost in double-overtime [in the quarterfinal game]."
Sophomore forward Chelsey Lee led the team with 17 points and 13 rebounds and sophomore guard Khadijah Rushdan added 14 points.
The Knights made only 16 shots from the field in a defensive struggle, but went 28-of-36 from the charity stripe to help push them past the Hoyas.
Take the venue and the crowd out of the equation and the game itself looked similar to the time the two teams met earlier this season.
But with the victory, a huge question was answered for head coach C. Vivian Stringer —
a question of heart.
"I've questioned it all year — their heart, their will and their desire to play," Stringer said. "Today I saw that they remembered. Sometimes maybe I think they don't remember, don't remember if they lose they're going to go home. … You think they'll forget that we lost to Louisville in double overtime [last year].
"But just because they don't say it doesn't mean they've forgotten. I'm happy they've remembered what it is to be a fighting Scarlet Knight — even if we had lost I would have been extremely proud."
The Hoyas rendered Ray ineffective, as the senior found herself in foul trouble in the second half. Ray picked up her fourth foul with just over 14 minutes to play, and though she returned to the game with five minutes remaining, she fouled out two minutes later with a look of disbelief while walking to the bench.
"It was hard, and we all know that Brittany is our go-to and she makes good shots," Rushdan said. "You've got to credit the people that were out there though. You have to make the best of what you've got. We stuck it out and we played with that mentality that coach Stringer always sees."
Georgetown freshman Sugar Rodgers hurt the Knights for the second time this season, finishing with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
As explosive as they were against Cincinnati in the second round of the tournament, the Knights (19-13, 11-7) came out completely flat, missing their first seven shots — exactly as they did vs. Georgetown (25-7, 13-4) in January. RU looked out of sorts, turning the ball over, never settling into an offensive rhythm, doomed by poor passing and turnovers.
Twelve minutes into the first half, the Knights had more fouls than they did points, with five and four, respectively, but ultimately cut the deficit to 23-19 by intermission.
"That was a gutsy win," Stringer said. "We had two guards with four fouls and yet we continued to press and it takes a great deal out of you, and plus [you] run the risk of a foul. … We as a coaching staff couldn't be more proud — it was a gutsy, gritty game."