Streak snaps with narrow Temple loss
PHILADELPHIA – With both the Rutgers and Temple women's basketball teams streaking in opposite directions heading into McGonigle Hall last night, something had to give.
The Scarlet Knights entered the game off a trio of blowout wins in their previous three games, while the Owls entered on a two-game skid.
With a pair of streaks on the line, both squads found themselves in a battle, and after a frantic affair, Temple (3-4) sent the Knights (4-3) home with a 60-58 loss, beating head coach C. Vivian Stringer's team for the second straight season.
"There were good things, and there were enough negatives," Stringer said. "As I shared with the team, I felt this would be the first real test since we played Stanford. Hopefully we learned some things, but it would be nice to learn and win."
With 45.7 seconds on the clock, sophomore guard Erica Wheeler laid the ball in after a crafty drive to the basket, tying the game at 58.
Following a pair of failed possessions by both squads, Temple guard Shey Peddy drove up the left wing and took a Wheeler foul to head to the foul line with 2.3 seconds remaining.
Peddy sank the first, headed to her bench after Stringer called a timeout, then went back and made the next one to seal the victory.
"If I could do it all over again, I'd probably play a zone, but because we are not nearly as quick as we need to be they were much too quick and they kept coming in," Stringer said. "Obviously we did what we had been doing all day, leaving them open and not moving our feet. I think I could have protected that if I went into a zone."
Junior guard Khadijah Rushdan rattled off consecutive baskets to bring her squad within a basket after the Owls built a six-point lead at the 3:09 mark, following a 3-pointer by Qwedia Wallace and a layup by Peddy put them on a 5-0 run.
Both were left open for 3-pointers countless times in the game, as the Knights struggled to figure it out on the defensive side of the ball.
"There were several times where we were just not able to execute because we did not have people in the right place," Stringer said. "The big thing for me is that I'm disappointed with the defense."
Peddy and Wallace won the battle against the Rutgers backcourt of Nikki Speed and Rushdan, finishing with nine and 13 points, respectively.
Neither Speed nor Rushdan seemed themselves in the contest, and while both made their handful of big-time shots, each lacked aggressiveness and finished with a combined 17 points.
Both squads traded buckets the entire second half, and sophomore Monique Oliver came alive to start the period with six points in the first six and a half minutes after a scoreless first half.
But the surge was not enough, as Temple held forward Chelsey Lee to just four points in the second half. Though she went cold in the second half, Lee recorded one of the best games of her career with 15 points and eight boards, but it wasn't enough to get a victory
The Knights fought from behind for nearly the entire second half, as Stringer's squad did not lead in the period after holding a one-point advantage with 14:40 on the clock.
And yet again this season, Rutgers was bested on the glass, 31-26, allowing 14 second-chance points to the Owls off of their 13 offensive boards.
"We had four offensive rebounds, and these are team stats," Stringer said. "I have never seen that in my life."
The Knights knew before they got on the bus to Philadelphia that Temple's backcourt of Peddy and Wallace would be difficult to contain, but couldn't do anything about it come game time, as the pair went into the locker room with 15 combined points.
The guard combo displayed its quickness repeatedly, as Stringer's defense continually got beat down court for open 3-point shots.
Wallace finished the first half with 10 points — six from beyond the arc — and showed her burst no better than at the 4:44 mark, when she crossed over Wheeler at the top of the key to split the 2-3 zone and get in the lane for an easy layup.
Rutgers' guard play lacked greatly in comparison to the Owl's in the period, as Rushdan committed two offensive fouls and landed a spot on the bench for much of the first half after converting just one jumper two minutes into the game.
Lee carried the Knights down low in the period with 11 points and six rebounds, while Oliver registered just one shot attempt.
The Knights head back to Piscataway looking to remain perfect at home against Central Connecticut State on Sunday afternoon, but before then Stringer and Co. will go back to work searching for the answers to their defensive miscues.
"You can play defense — if you can't play nothing else, you can play defense,' Stringer said. "Defense is grunt work, it's just the extra steps you have to take you just have to work on defense. You've got to want to do it, and you've got to believe that that's what causes you to win."