Rutgers looks to end loosing streak at Maryland
Knights have lost 3 straight after hot start to season
The Rutgers women’s basketball team is currently experiencing its worst stretch of the season, having lost three straight games and 4 of its last 5. And it doesn’t get any easier anytime soon.
The Scarlet Knights (17-6, 5-4) look to end their skid on Thursday night, when they take on No. 11 Maryland (18-3, 7-1) in College Park. It will be the first time they face a ranked opponent since their November loss to defending national champion South Carolina, who was ranked No. 2 at the time.
Rutgers lost its last game at Indiana on Saturday, 64-58. Despite overcoming a 9-point third quarter deficit, it was unable to hang on down the stretch.
After an 11-game win streak saw them enter the Associated Press top 25, the Knights have gone 1-4 ever since and are fading fast with a slate of tough opponents coming up.
While head coach C. Vivian Stringer has said that a lack of focus has led to the recent losses, another culprit has been Rutgers’ lack of scoring depth.
The Knights have had only three players other than senior guard Tyler Scaife score 10 or more points in their past five games, while Scaife is the only member of the team who averages more than 10 points per game this season. Scaife can’t do it all, and the team suffers when she’s the only one who’s making a major impact.
If there’s one Rutgers player who can take the offensive pressure off Scaife, it’s junior guard KK Sanders. Sanders scored 8 straight points in the third quarter against Indiana to help the Knights overcome a deficit and take the lead. While her efforts were ultimately in vain, it was a sign that she can take over a game if she needed to.
The Terrapins on the other hand have won 16 of their last 17 games after a 2-2 start, and they boast one of the best offenses in the country. Their 85.1 points per game is the fifth-best mark in the country, and they lead the Big Ten in scoring margin, offensive rebounds and assists.
Most recently, Maryland got a big win against then-No. 12 Ohio State, whom they beat by 30. Guard Kaila Charles led the team with a career-high 32 points, which allowed her to win her second Big Ten Player of the Week award this season.
Charles may lead the team with 17.6 points per game, but she is far from the sole reason why the Terps' offense is so potent. Maryland has many players that allow it to put up points in bunches and give opponents headaches. While Scaife is the only Rutgers player who averages more than 10 points per game, the Terps have seven that do so, five of whom have kept that average up specifically in Big Ten play.
Maryland guards Kristen Confroy and Blair Watson are the top two three-point shooters in the Big Ten and are both in the top 25 nationwide. Confroy’s 46.7 clip is the fourth best in the country, while Watson’s 44.1 puts her in 22nd.
The Knights’ early play made them seem like they would be a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament, but their recent results have put their chances at the dance in jeopardy. A win against a top-15 team would go a long way toward putting them back on track, and it would give them a big boost going forward.
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