Third quarter struggles haunt Rutgers in loss to Indiana
Throughout the ups and downs of the Rutgers women’s basketball team's season, there has been one constant theme for this team — the significance of the third quarter. The Scarlet Knights have made a bad habit of coming out for the second half flat and getting blown out of the water by their conference oppositions.
Competing against Indiana on Tuesday night, Rutgers held a slim 29-27 advantage going into the third quarter. While it had limited Hoosier star Tyra Buss to just 4 points in the first half, the team knew it was only a matter of time before she got her shot.
To start off the third quarter, the Hoosiers made back-to-back shots and quickly took the lead 31-29, just 1:25 into the quarter, forcing the Knights' head coach C. Vivian Stringer to call a timeout. Rutgers was able to regain composure and get the lead back. The last time the Knights had a lead was with 2:50 left in the quarter, when they went up 39-38. The Hoosiers closed the third quarter on an 8-0 run to give themselves a 46-39 lead.
“I don’t know what to say. It’s like the doomsday third quarter,” Stringer said. “‘Okay here we go. We gotta finish the game.’ And it’s sad. The third quarter all the time. We looked like we saw a goddarned ghost.”
In the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers stretched their lead all the way to 13 points and the game seemed completely out of reach. Rutgers clawed back, with an 8-0 run of its own, bringing the score to 52-47. Buss then took over for Indiana, scoring 6 of 8 points on an 8-0 Hoosier run.
With the score at 60-47 with under two minutes left, Indiana (16-8, 6-5) would go on to defeat the Knights (6-18, 3-8) by a score of 63-52.
“I can’t even use the excuse that we’re inexperienced,” she said. “I mean when you have this many games … we’re just not very smart.”
Although Rutgers limited Buss to just 4 points in the first half, she put in 13 points in the second half, including going 9-for-11 from the free throw line. She also dished out nine assists, her second-highest total of the season. But the star of the game for the Hoosiers was not Buss. Forward Amanda Cahill knocked in 20 points on 8-15 shooting, providing a scoring presence on an off-night for Buss.
“We need to step it up defensively,” said junior guard Shrita Parker. “Rutgers been known as a defensive team but this team that we have right now, we’re slacking on defense.”
Center Jenn Anderson was the only other Hoosier in double figures, chipping in 10 points to go along with five rebounds.
For the Knights, Parker finally got back to her scoring ways, leading the team with 14 points in an exhausting 38 minutes of play. The only other Rutgers player in double figures was junior forward Kandiss Barber, who had 12 points. Down the stretch, the Knights couldn’t get those momentum-changing shots to fall and that allowed the Hoosiers to slowly put them away down the stretch.
“Are we hitting shots? No. Were we looking for each other? No. Nowhere near that,” Stringer said.
The statistic difference in free throws was glaring. For Rutgers, it has never been an issue of whether the Knights can make it, but whether they can get to the line at all.
Indiana made 13 of 17 shots from the line, including the aforementioned 9-for-11 mark from Buss, while Rutgers got to the line only four times, making three of them. Buss alone made three times as many foul shots as the Knights.
“We need to get to the free throw line,” Parker said. “Everybody else is getting to the free throw line at least 17 times and we only going 3 or 4 times and that’s really killing us.”
Rutgers has now lost five consecutive games with only five remaining on the schedule. The Knights are back in action Sunday afternoon when they visit conference foe Minnesota, taking on the Gophers for the first time this season.
Stringer herself could think of 100 different things her team needs to fix, but summed up Rutgers struggles perfectly in her post-game press conference.
“It looks like we play not to lose and you can’t do that. You have to play to win,” Stringer said.
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