Rutgers falls on road with sloppy play
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — A costly foul sealed the fate for the Rutgers women’s basketball team yesterday, as it fell to Seton Hall, 45-42. After senior forward Chelsey Lee deflected the ball at half court with 30 seconds to play, she committed a reach-in foul that sent Pirates guard Brittany Morris to the free throw line.
The Scarlet Knights (11-8, 2-4) had one last opportunity to force overtime, but senior guard Erica Wheeler came up short after a contested three-pointer from the left corner.
Rutgers walked off the floor frustrated and disappointed in a failed attempt to steal a road game against its in-state rival. The Knights players were not available for comment after losing to Seton Hall for the first time since a 61-51 loss back on Feb. 13, 2002.
Morris led all scorers with 19, while backcourt mate Ka-Deidre Simmons contributed 11 in the upset.
“I always have to go hard against Rutgers,” Simmons said after the victory. “It is a rivalry in-state, and I know Seton Hall has not beat Rutgers in a long time. So it was a good win for us.”
It was a game in which the Pirates (8-12, 3-4) were a step quicker and had more grit to snap their four-game skid.
Sophomore forward Betnijah Laney carried Rutgers offensively, finishing the game with 11 points. Senior guard Erica Wheeler helped with 10 points and pulled down four rebounds in the contest.
The Knights had their hands full trying to contain the Pirates, but it was to no avail. It was a tough loss to swallow after watching Seton Hall’s effort pay off.
“I thought that Seton Hall played tough,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “I think they played gritty. The kids played hard, and it does not surprise me. We looked like we were sleepwalking and that continues to speak to the immaturity of our team.
The Knights gained some life in the second half of action, as they forced the Pirates to find an alternative way to win the game.
With nine minutes to play, Laney hit a tough layup in traffic to give Rutgers its first lead of the afternoon, 38-36. On the ensuing possession, Oliver knocked down an open jumper from the wing to extend the Knights’ lead, 40-36, forcing a Seton Hall timeout.
The unexpected turn of play cautioned the Pirates to take care of the basketball and play under control for the rest of the stretch. Simmons felt the team reacted well to Rutgers’ unforeseen intensity and “was determined to give up.”
Seton Hall’s win was monumental for Morris, as the Knights have usually faired well against their cross-state rival.
“It is showing us that we can do more than we thought we could going into the season,” she siad. “It was just exciting.”
The game remained close in the opening stanza after both teams were careless with the ball. Both had 10 turnovers each and were not crisp in play.
Rutgers managed to cut Seton Hall’s lead to one, 19-18, after Laney connected on a difficult layup and completed the three-point play at the free throw line.
The Pirates did not take long to respond as Morris hit one of her three baskets from behind the arc the next trip down the floor with 43 seconds left to play.
After senior forward Alexandra Maseko rejected an attempted jumper from freshman forward Rachel Hollivay, Simmons brought the ball down and drained another 3-pointer with five seconds remaining.
The Knights came out flat to start the game. Seton Hall took advantage of the pace and broke out with a 9-2 run from the opening tip to grab an early lead.
Rutgers never led in the first half, although there were moments when it seemed to be on the verge of a run. But the Pirates never let the Knights build momentum.
“We just tried to stay in the moment,” said Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan. “We thought we could have a win like this and it is nice now that we have a win like this. We are looking to move forward.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Aaron Farrar on Twitter @AFarrarTargum.