No. 24 Rutgers suffers familiar fate in familiar territory, falls to No. 8 Maryland
For the fourth time this season Thursday night, a top-20 team entered the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
And for the fourth time this season, the No. 24 Rutgers women’s basketball team failed to pull out a win.
“I haven’t taken a Motrin since the beginning of this year,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “I got a real tight headache. Trust me when I tell you that. The first thing I want to do is relax my neck because it’s killing me. Yes, it’s frustrating, but no, it fires me up.”
She made her point clear when she leaned back and asked senior wing Betnjiah Laney and junior guard Briyona Canty at the podium during postgame press conference if they accepted being second-best.
“No,” they both mumbled.
“Excuse my French, but hell no,” Stringer said. “So I am not happy about this — at all.”
With No. 8 Maryland (14-2, 5-0) in the building, a prime opportunity presented itself to rid the demons lurking from home losses to top-20 teams in North Carolina, Tennessee and Iowa.
But the narrative was much of the same and the trend continued for the Scarlet Knights in a 71-59 loss to the Terrapins.
“We have to understand the reason that we’re losing,” Laney said. “Once we do that, we’ll turn it around and be able to beat these teams.”
Rutgers (12-5, 3-3) fell behind early, and despite its efforts to climb back into the game, never claimed the lead.
Maryland shot out of the gates to a 10-0 lead in the first 1:46 of play to stun the RAC before ballooning it to a 25-7 lead just minutes later.
But in large part due to Laney’s 12 points to lead all scorers in the first half and some suffocating defense, the Knights clawed their way back.
Two Maryland shot clock violations later and an electrifying jumper at the sound of the horn by sophomore guard Tyler Scaife, Rutgers had capped a 12-3 run and narrowed the deficit to four heading into the locker room.
The momentum shift was obvious. The crowd was back in it. The second half was there for Stringer’s squad to take.
Early on in the second half action, the Knights knotted the game up in a 40-40 tie on layup by Canty. For the next right minutes, they stayed afloat with the Terps, trading baskets and keeping the game to within four points.
But playing catch-up caught up to Rutgers, and Maryland took notice of it. The Terps began to pull away on a 12-2 run with 8:02 remaining and left the Knights in the dust.
Laney, who sat out for a huge chunk of the second half after picking up her fourth foul and went scoreless in the period, discussed the disappointment of the team being right there but being unable to take command of the game with the lead.
“If we could’ve got the lead, it would’ve definitely gave us more momentum,” Laney said.
But when Rutgers needed it most, the team had no one to turn to.
Junior wing Kahleah Copper had a team-high 16 points to accompany her eight rebounds and four assists, but was relatively quiet in the second frame. Aside from her buzzer-beater in the first half, Scaife had a night to forget after shooting 4-of-17 from the field with nine points.
Canty did what she could to pitch in with eight points on 80 percent shooting in her first game back from a bone bruise in her leg, but her spark off the bench wasn’t enough to get things going for the Knights.
Lauren Mincy led Maryland with a game-high 24 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. As one of four Terrapins scoring in double-figures, Mincy and Maryland were always one step ahead.
It’s a part of a theme that has become too common for Stringer as her team continues to search for an elusive signature win over a top-20 team.
“Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different things to happen,” Stringer said, as she pounded her fist on the podium. “It’s a win or you lose, so it’s a long story short. We’ve got to put a period behind what the word is — is it a ‘W’ or an ‘L’ — and we’ve got to pay the price for those 40 minutes.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.