Rutgers suffers first home loss of season to Nebraska
Knights lose back to back games for first time this season
It was a matchup between two of the biggest surprises in women’s college basketball this season. Two teams that had 12 wins between them last season, now facing each other in January with 30 combined wins. But, while Nebraska looked improved, Rutgers did not.
The Scarlet Knights (17-5, 5-3) lost to the Cornhuskers (14-6, 5-2) 52-42 Sunday night, marking their first home loss of the season after 12 straight wins. It was also the first time all season that they lost two games in a row, as they also lost at Penn State on Thursday. After entering the AP top 25 for the first time in two years, Rutgers has lost 3 out of 4 and has dropped out of the ranks.
“It’s definitely frustrating losing at home, especially since we had a winning streak,” said junior guard Khadaizha “KK” Sanders. “But we need to bounce back and get back to where we have been … I can admit that we have lost focus, and we just need to take this as a learning lesson and buckle down, and it’s all going to start in practice.”
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer expanded on the lack of focus seen during games as well as in practice.
“We haven’t been doing what we need to do, and I’m not surprised (that we lost),” she said. “We’re not working hard, executing, running through cuts or focusing on defense. We mean well and know what needs to happen, but we haven’t been appreciative enough of each other and what we have to do for each other in order for us to be a successful team.”
Stringer likened the Knights' recent struggles during practice to a young child burning his hand on a stove. They have seen the warnings, and now they have to heed them.
After a first quarter with less than 20 points between the two teams, Nebraska held a 4-point lead and upped it to 5 by halftime, leading 27-22. Rutgers trailed from the halfway point of the first quarter on and finished the half with a field goal percentage of 31, in contrast to the Cornhuskers’ 45.8.
Nebraska also controlled the third quarter for the most part, increasing its lead to 7 while shooting more than 50 percent, while the Knights shot from the field at a clip of 33 percent.
Rutgers attempted to close the gap multiple times in the fourth quarter and pulled within 3 with 5:56 to go, but the Huskers held the Knights scoreless the rest of the way to lock down the win.
Stringer said that the team tried to run isolation plays to prevent the Huskers from answering back but were unable to succeed with them. She also gave immense credit to Nebraska and said that it was the most improved team in the country.
Rutgers finished the game with a field goal percentage of 29.3, the second-lowest total this season behind its 26.8 percentage in its loss at Purdue earlier this month. The Knights total of 17 shots made was also the second lowest of the season behind their 15 made against Purdue.
Nebraska also out rebounded Rutgers 40-29, and Stringer cited that as a cause for her team’s low shooting percentage.
“When you’re not rebounding well, then you’re going to shoot tentatively,” Stringer said. “When you rebound, then you’re going to shoot with a great deal of confidence, and you’ll get a second or third opportunity (to score). We have not been rebounding, we’ve been counting on someone else to do our work.”
Fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife led the Knights with 20 points, and was their only scorer in double figures. Interestingly, she was not in the starting lineup but instead came in 3 minutes into the game.
Rutgers’ next game is at Indiana (9-12, 2-6) on Saturday afternoon.
After another game that both coaches and players agreed was a disappointment, the Knights now have to regroup and fix their mistakes before their season goes off the rails.
“We should be playing far better, but hopefully it’s a wake-up call,” Stringer said. “It should have been a wake-up call against Purdue, and we’re dealing with the reality of what we need to do … I’m hoping that we can regroup and get back on the road that we were on and see it to its end.”
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