Second-half collapse against Temple pushes Rutgers to double-digit losses
It was a tale of two halves for the Rutgers women’s basketball team but not in a favorable way. A strong first half pushed it ahead of visiting Temple by 8 points but a dismal second half was the reason they dropped a 48-37 contest to the Owls on Saturday afternoon at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
The Scarlet Knights (3-10) got out to an 11-2 lead to start the game, highlighted by six straight points from sophomore center Desiree Keeling and capped off by a three-pointer by sophomore guard Aliyah Jeune.
The second period featured some sloppy play from both sides, but Rutgers maintained its advantage and took a 26-18 advantage into the locker room.
All the momentum went Temple’s way in the second half, as it quickly erased the Rutgers lead by way of an 18-4 run. The Owls (7-3) ended the third quarter with a 39-33 lead, outscoring the Knights 21-7 in the penultimate period.
“Was there anything that they did that we were not prepared (for)? What happened?” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer on Temple's comeback. “Why were we up there trying to play someone at the four-point range — so we sort of lost it. (Then) all of a sudden they start to get closer and you get anxious.”
Rutgers couldn’t get a shot to fall and turned the ball over too many times in the fourth quarter. The Knights started off hot from behind the arc, going 4-6 in the first half, but they were just 1-6 in the second half when they so desperately needed one to fall to get back in the game.
“This group is not used to anything at the higher level. We hope to get there. We’re trying to change mindsets and attitudes,” Stringer said.
As for the Owls, they were a poor 2-14 from deep, but made up for it with strong defense, holding the Knights to a 29.1 percent clip from the field.
To go along with their strong defense, they were led by Feyonda Fitzgerald, their leading scorer on the season, who dropped in 19 points and 4 assists while playing every second of the game.
The Knights were led by Desiree Keeling, who recorded her first career double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. She was the only Knight in double figures on the day.
“If we are not as wise as we need to be.then we can come in not as sharp. What ends up happening is — we’ve been having two days of bad practices,” Stringer said. “Am I surprised (with the result)? Not at all. After a while you begin to know it and see certain things and you try to get a warning ahead of time.”
This game wrapped up the non-conference slate for the Knights and they head into their winter break with double-digit losses, which is not acceptable in Stringer's eyes. They open up conference play on the road at Michigan on December 28th.
Stringer has a young team, which she is not particularly used to, as she usually has experienced elite players to count on as leaders on the court. This group is learning with each game, but that is not enough for Stringer, as she expects nothing but the best from her players.
“The only way we’re gonna have more confidence is that we’ve gotta be able to perform in high pressure situations,” she said. “But as soon as the big bad wolf starts to come and threaten, then we find ourselves crumbling and so we didn’t have that leadership we needed.”
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