Rutgers suffers similar fate in second straight loss
Following its heartbreaking 70-67 loss to No. 25 Michigan State on Thursday night, the Rutgers women’s basketball team had another shot at home on Sunday afternoon against a nationally ranked conference opponent.
The Scarlet Knights (16-12, 7-9) hosted No. 6 Maryland (25-3, 14-2) at the Rutgers Athletic Center, and suffered a similar fate against another premier opponent.
Rutgers fell to the Terrapins, 73-59, in a game which it was competitive during the first quarter, but let the game get away from them in the second quarter.
After a three-game winning streak which appeared to be getting their season back on track, two home losses this week have put a bit of a damper on the Knights’ hopes to move up the conference standings.
Things got off to a good start, with senior center Rachel Hollivay scoring a basket in the paint on the team’s first possession to give the Knights a 2-0 lead.
Both teams went back and forth in the first quarter, with the Terrapins holding a 14-13 advantage after the opening period.
Rutgers struggled to hang in during the second quarter, with Maryland going on a 7-0 run to extend its lead to 26-17.
The Terrapins then continued to unleash an aggressive attack on offense to close the half, leading 34-21.
Foul trouble began to hurt the Knights again, as senior guard Briyona Canty and Hollivay were relegated to the bench for key minutes after picking up fouls.
This brought inexperienced players into the game for Rutgers, which hurt against a powerful offense like Maryland.
“We just didn’t have the depth and the consistency,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “Things got out of whack, and it was taking us too long to figure out what we want to do. We seemed to be comfortable in the first quarter, but in the second quarter, it was 20-8.”
While the Knights struggled to slow down the Terrapin offense, it was also hard for Rutgers to create its own scoring opportunities.
They finished the first half shooting just 8-for-29 from the field, and only 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
On the other side, Maryland was much more efficient and hit 15 of their 29 shots in the first half, a big boost for their 13-point advantage.
The second quarter provided the edge Maryland needed to hold the lead for the remainder of the game, and the Knights were unable to overcome the deficit.
“We can’t seem to get over the hump lately (after the first quarter),” Stringer said.
It was difficult for Rutgers to contain the high-powered Terrapin offense, which entered the contest averaging 84.8 points per game, good for fourth in the country and second in the Big Ten.
Junior center Brionna Jones leads the nation in field goal percentage (.669), and again shot at a high clip in her team’s victory.
She was 7-for-11 from the field, recording a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Junior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough entered the game leading the country in 3-point field goal percentage (.573), and made her impact felt in this matchup from beyond the arc.
She finished with 21 points, shooting 3-for-6 on her three-point attempts, and 7-for-15 overall from the field.
While Maryland did not face much trouble with having their shots fall, the same could not be said for Rutgers on Sunday.
As a team, the Knights finished 23-for-52 from the field, which is a 44.2 percent mark.
Senior wing Kahleah Copper shot very well for Rutgers, finishing with a team-high 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
She also made all three of her 3-point attempts.
Hollivay also was efficient with her shooting, making all five of her attempts, finishing with 11 points and six rebounds.
But as a whole, it just seemed to be a day where shots weren’t falling for Rutgers, despite having good looks from the floor.
It was a solid game for Copper, who also added two rebounds and four assists, but the loss showed that the team as a whole has not been playing as they have hoped over the last few games.
“We just need to stay focused and continue to come to practice and work on the things we’re struggling with,” Copper said. “We need to focus on the drills in practice that help us with rebounding, doing things like that. We need to focus on continuing to come out and play hard.”
Other than Copper, Hollivay and junior guard Tyler Scaife, who also finished with 11 points, the rest of the team shot just a combined 3-for-21 from the field.
Even more alarming, the Knights were outscored 24-2 in bench points.
Already facing an uphill battle against such a talented Maryland team, it made things even more difficult for Rutgers to stay in the game.
“We’re not getting what we need, and it speaks to the youth of our group,” Stringer said. “We have been anemic and shorthanded … but right now we don’t own anything.”
Sophomore guard Shrita Parker provided a bright spot for the Knights on a day where they were tough to come by.
She has seen an increase in playing time lately, and earned another start on Sunday, playing effectively in her 38 minutes on the floor.
Against the Terrapins, she contributed with 9 points, seven rebounds and four assists, along with taking a charge, which gave her team a motivational spark on the floor.
Her play has picked up of late, and should serve the Knights well as they wrap up the regular season with a couple of more games left on the schedule before the Big Ten Tournament.
Scaife has noticed the improvement in her teammate’s play and said it is a direct result of listening to Stringer’s advice.
“She’s starting to do the little things coach (Stringer) has been telling her to do,” she said. “Playing defense, rebounding, scoring within rhythm and as you can see, it’s starting to look really good when she bought into what coach was telling her to do.”