Rutgers worn down from start to finish against Purdue.
Looking to end a six-game losing streak, the Rutgers women’s basketball team took on Purdue at the Rutgers Athletic Center Wednesday night. That did not happen.
The Boilermakers (16-11, 7-6) rode Ashley Morrissette’s 19-point performance en route to a convincing 55-42 victory over the Scarlet Knights (6-20, 3-10).
The Scarlet Knights have been accustomed to fast starts at home, relying on early shot-making and high-pressure defense. Going into the first timeout of the game, just a little over halfway through the first quarter, they were 2-9 from the field. They did, however, limit the Boilermakers to a 1-9 mark from the field with KK Sanders jumping a pass that led to a fast break.
The first quarter ended with a 9-9 scoreline and more likely than not some very unhappy coaches. Both teams were shooting under 30 percent from the field while Purdue missed all of its 3-point attempts and went just 1-4 from the free-throw line.
The Boilermakers ramped it up in the second quarter, as they nearly doubled their offensive output, putting up 17 points and taking a 26-20 lead at halftime. They improved their 26.7 percent mark from the first quarter to 42 percent in the second.
One of the ways Purdue was able to turn the tide in the second quarter was with offensive rebounding. Holding a 12-6 advantage, the Boilermakers were able to limit the Knights from grabbing rebounds and getting out in transition.
On the other hand, Rutgers really struggled to find a rhythm on offense. The Knights shot just 27.5 percent from the field in the first half, often due to them chewing up unnecessary time off the shot clock leading to poor decisions.
The most prominent storyline in Big Ten play for Rutgers has been the third quarter. The Knights have been getting outscored by wide margins nearly every time they take the floor for the second half.
“I can give you a bunch of philosophical BS if you want me to, or I can tell you the truth,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “It’s a mental thing.”
Purdue outscored them 16-10 in the third quarter and although that is not a dominating scoreline, it gave the Boilermakers a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter which seemed to be insurmountable for Rutgers.
The fourth quarter went back and forth, but Purdue always had an answer any time Rutgers tried to put together any sort of a run.
Stringer was once against visibly distraught at her team’s performance and 26 games into the season, with just four games remaining in the regular season, she still can not seem to figure out the issue with this team.
“This is the only team I know that I haven’t been able to figure this one out for my life,” she said.
Junior guard Shrita Parker paced the Knights with 11 points, but was the only Rutgers player in double-figures and was just 25 percent from the field and 1-7 from three point range.
She is the primary scorer for the team and will have to put up better numbers night in and night out to produce wins.
“(I need to) hit shots and be a leader and be more effective defensively,” she said when asked how she could improve her game with limited time left in the season.
This is the seventh consecutive game that Rutgers has lost, though a trip to last-place Wisconsin on Saturday could help turn things around.
Sanders has been the catalyst for this offense, as well as the leader on the defensive end of the floor. At 6-20, the Knights are not in contention for a postseason tournament, but still have four remaining games to prove themselves as a team.
“We just need to be better, offensively, defensively,” Sanders said. “I feel like we got so much potential but we holding back. I feel like we need to improve every game, stay focused, keep trying to learn, stay positive going forward.”
Sanders has strung together some quality games on defense, but the offensive output by the Knights has been nothing short of disappointing over the last five games.
During that 0-5 stretch, Rutgers is averaging just under 47 points per game, while opponents are averaging 64.8 points per game. A 17-point difference in conference play is not ideal to say the least and for Stringer, there is nothing complicated about her team’s recent struggles.
“At the end of the day, the name of the game is to put the ball in the basket,” she said. “And we don’t do such a good job of that.”
While trying to think of what the issue is with this team, Stringer struggled to think of anything other than pure shooting percentage in regards to what is holding Rutgers back.
As the season winds down, the Knights have just one home game remaining, as they will host No. 12 Ohio State in their season finale.
Rutgers will try to close out the season on a high note but for now, there is only one thing Stringer’s mind keeps reverting to.
“The proof is in the pudding,” she said. “We cannot shoot. Period.”