September 18, 2019 | 49° F

RU must solve Louisville in road matchup

Photo by Jeffery Lazaro |

Junior forward April'Sykes, the team's leading scorer this season, eclipsed the 20-point mark in the Scarlet Knights' 63-44 loss to No. 2 Connecticut on Wednesday at home. The Starkville, Miss., native averages 14.2 points per game this season.

The last time Rutgers head women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer matched wits with Louisville head coach Jeff Walz, the Scarlet Knights cruised to a 20-point victory.

That win came in Piscataway, where the Knights own a perfect 3-0 record against their Big East rivals.

But put Rutgers (12-7, 5-1) against the Cardinals in any gym other than the Louis Brown Athletic Center and the losses begin to pile up –– a trend the team cannot afford to continue following a loss to No. 2 Connecticut.

"I think I would be much more disappointed if we went down to Louisville and not understand the real story," Stringer said following the 63-44 loss Wednesday. "I would be much more upset because I know this one hurts because it does for me."

The only other times the Knights lost consecutive games this season was in their first two games against California and No. 4 Stanford and in late December, when the squad dropped two in a row to No. 5 Texas A&M then No. 6 Tennessee.

But these are different circumstances and Stringer knows it.

With a win, the Cardinals (13-8, 4-3) could begin to work their way into the conference discussion, and with a loss, the Knights could start inching their way out.

A letdown is something Rutgers cannot afford with the heart of its Big East schedule looming, but given the history between the two squads, it could be difficult to avoid.

Stringer and Co. are 0-2 when battling Louisville on neutral grounds and own the same record when taking on the Cardinals in their home gym.

To make matters worse, Louisville is shooting 45.6 percent from the field this season. Much of that success is in part due to the guard play of freshman Shoni Schimmel and the post play of junior forward Monique Reid.

Schimmel and Reid are the only two Cardinals scoring in double figures this season, averaging 16.2 and 16.3 points per game, respectively.

But against the Huskies, only a pair of familiar scorers showed up for the Knights.

Junior guard Khadijah Rushdan, the team's second leading scorer, went 0-for-11 from the field the last time out and finished the game with two points — 11 shy of her season average.

In the paint, the squad was forced to rely on sophomore center Monique Oliver due to a rough outing by junior forward Chelsey Lee, who ended regulation with just three points and three boards.

Mixing these stat lines with a date in Louisville could translate to two straight conference losses for the Knights.

One of the few bright spots for Rutgers came from the play of junior forward April Sykes, who scored 20 points on a 6-for-12 shooting clip.

But by mirroring the defensive effort against Connecticut –– at least from the first half of play ––the squad could work toward alleviating the hostility of the Cardinals crowd and work toward earning its first victory in Louisville.

If not, the two-game slide the Knights faced following their loss to UConn last season could be the repeating trend.

Anthony Hernandez

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