September 18, 2019 | 57° F

RU lets lead slip away in loss to UofL


It was exactly what head coach C. Vivian Stringer did not want to happen.

After falling to No. 2 Connecticut last week, the Hall of Fame coach almost immediately preached for the Rutgers women's basketball team to focus on the next game: a Saturday evening date with the Louisville Cardinals.

But by game's end, the Scarlet Knights suffered a 56-45 defeat, making it two conference losses in a row for a team once undefeated in conference play.

The Cardinals (14-8, 5-3) rallied behind a 17-0 run late in the second half to take a 14-point lead, while holding the Knights (12-8, 5-2) scoreless during the stretch. A rejuvenated Louisville defense resulted in a 10-minute dry spell for Stringer's team, as junior forward April Sykes was the only Rutgers player to score in the game's final 12 minutes.

The Starkville, Miss., native matched her 20-point performance from last week to once again lead the team in scoring.

The outing also marked the fourth time this season that Sykes scored 20 points and the only time since the 2008-09 season that a Rutgers player scored 20 points in consecutive contests.

But after Sykes, the offensive production dropped off.

Behind Sykes' 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting was nine points from sophomore guard Erica Wheeler, who is filling in the starting role for the still-injured Nikki Speed.

And when moving down to the post, so too do the stat lines.

The post play of sophomore center Monique Oliver and junior forward Chelsey Lee proved to be the x-factor during the team's five-game winning streak.

But in the last two games, both players have had their fair share of struggles, as Lee and Oliver are averaging 4.5 and 10 points per game, respectively, in the pair of losses.

Freshman guard Shoni Schimmel and junior forward Monique Reid, Louisville's leading scorers, kept up their production in the win, recording 12 and 17 points, respectively.

Reid shot the lights out, shooting 7-of-11 from the field and serving as an integral part in the team's comeback run with less than 12 minutes to go in the second half.

But the 17-0 run this game was familiar to the 17-2 run the Huskies orchestrated a game ago in Piscataway.

In both games the Knights could not dig themselves out of the hole, and in both games the opposition came out on top.

What could be more disconcerting for Stringer is that her team dropped to 2-6 when playing on the road this season, and for the sixth straight time when playing the Cardinals away from the Banks, the Knights walked away with a loss.

The Knights get back into conference action Tuesday night with a road contest at St. John's.


Anthony Hernandez

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