Third quarter collapse dooms Rutgers in 77-49 loss at Seton Hall
After the Rutgers women’s basketball team went on a 12-0 run to end the first half to cut its deficit against Seton Hall to 32-28, it seemed like the Scarlet Knights were ready to get back into the game in the second half.
The Knights dealt with early foul trouble and were sluggish from the field for most of the first half, but their late run made the game look competitive.
But Seton Hall came out firing in the second half to silence any potential Rutgers comeback.
Pirates forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith hit a 3-point shot on her team’s first possession of the second half and forward Tiffany Jones followed it with a block on the defensive end.
This sent the crowd of 1,628 at Walsh Gymnasium into a frenzy.
Jones then drove down court for a layup to give Seton Hall a nine-point lead at 37-28 and Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer called a timeout to try to stop the run.
It was to no avail, as the Pirates outscored the Knights, 25-9, in the third quarter and took a 57-37 lead heading into the final period.
“We were weak. We folded after they knocked that three down (to start the second half),” Stringer said. “After going down (in the first half), we were able to come back and it let us know we were capable of that. The problem was when they knocked those two (3-point shots) down.”
Seton Hall head coach Anthony Bozzella lamented postgame that he did not call a timeout at the end of the first half to stop the Rutgers run.
But he was elated that his players picked him up and were able to put a stop to the opposing momentum from the Rutgers side.
“Those first two baskets to start the second half were huge,” he said. “Tabitha made a big basket to start the second half and she really carried us.”
Rebounding was a big issue for the Knights in their loss.
After outrebounding St. Joseph’s, 31-27, on opening night, Rutgers was dominated on the boards, 38-25, against Seton Hall.
The biggest discrepancy came on the offensive boards, as the Knights only managed two offensive rebounds, as the Pirates grabbed 16.
This led to 12 second chance points for the Pirates, while the Knights only had one for the whole game.
“You have to give credit to them, they threw the ball well and crashed the boards,” Stringer said. "They had 16 offensive rebounds and we only had two, and the only person really crashing the boards for us today was senior center Rachel (Hollivay). It’s as simple as that.”
Hollivay was a bright spot on a night where the team struggled to get much going offensively.
She scored 13 points while shooting 6-for-8 from the field, along with adding a team-high eight rebounds.
The Knights were constantly outnumbered on the boards, but Hollivay did not want to use it as an excuse for the disparity.
“They were sending two people at me to box me out, and I just feel like we have to rebound better,” she said. “Coach Stringer always talks about, ‘Rebound, rebound, rebound,’ and I try to keep it in my head every game that I have to go for rebounds no matter who is blocking me out.”
Senior wing Kahleah Copper grabbed the second-most rebounds for Rutgers with five. She also led the team with 17 points.
Collectively, though, the Knights could not string together consistent stretches on the boards.
Much of that was caused by Jones, who was disruptive all night for Seton Hall and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
As the Knights look to bounce back Thursday night in their first home game of the season against St. John’s, they realize they need to get back to crashing the boards as a unit.
“We can do better,” Hollivay said. “There have been times when I don’t get rebounds at all and the guards get them, so it’s just a matter of coming together and putting all the pieces together and rebounding.”
A local game like this is sure to bring out extra emotion and attention, but both sides did not want to let this get the best of them.
Rutgers and Seton Hall squared off just last season in the NCAA Tournament, where the Knights bounced the Pirates in the first round, 79-66.
They also played each other the year before, where Rutgers won, 91-79, in a double-overtime game to eliminate Seton Hall from the WNIT.
Although Rutgers has crushed the postseason hopes of Seton Hall the last two seasons, both teams tried to approach this contest as just an early regular season game.
“It wasn’t about revenge for us. It’s a different team and a different year,” Bozzella said. “We wanted to win because we knew if we could beat a really good team like Rutgers it would help us at the end of the year.”
The game was even more close to home for Pirates guard Shakena Richardson.
She spent her first two seasons playing on the Banks before transferring to Florida State and then landing at Seton Hall.
Despite the close connection with both schools, Richardson resembled her coach by saying that there was not any added pressure for a game against Rutgers.
“We came out and set the tone early and it felt good to be out there playing against another team from New Jersey,” she said. “It was just like any other game for us.”
On the Rutgers side, there was not many good things to say about the team’s performance.
They were outshot, outrebounded and couldn’t seem to get a hold of any 50/50 balls that turned the game in favor of Seton Hall.
A potential rematch between these teams would be welcomed by the Knights, but they know they will have to come out with more energy and consistency next time if they want to see a better result.
“We have a lot of good teams around here in New Jersey,” Stringer said. “Maybe we will see each other again in the NCAA Tournament, like last year. That would be a treat and could be a great game if we, as a team, wake up.”
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