Knights seek balanced attack amid three-game skid
Three games, three different identities and three instances of the same outcome.
This is the story of the Rutgers women's basketball team over the past three contests, a stretch in which the team has struggled to click on all phases.
But with No. 25 Syracuse (16-4, 4-4) paying a visit to Piscataway this weekend, the Scarlet Knights have the perfect opportunity to break out of their shell –– just like they did the first time the two teams met up this season.
Four Knights scored in double figures when Rutgers (12-9, 5-3) defeated the Orange, 78-67, on Jan. 11 in Syracuse.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer's team had an identity then, and having just lost junior guard Nikki Speed to a foot injury, the backcourt did not yet feel the ebbs of the ever-flowing season.
But after losing to No. 2 Connecticut, 63-44, to kick off the team's three-game skid –– a game when the backcourt and frontcourt were in complete disarray –– the inconsistencies built up.
Junior forward April Sykes scored 20 points in consecutive games against UConn and Louisville, but fizzled out the next game, coming out scoreless in the Knights' most recent loss against St. John's.
Sophomore center Monique Oliver led the team with 22 points against the Johnnies, but scored just 20 points in the two earlier contests.
And junior guard Khadijah Rushdan, the team's second leading scorer, is averaging just 4.6 points per game during the losing streak while going a combined 4-for-25 from the field.
But amid the recent struggles, Stringer can still find plenty of positives from the first time the Knights and Orange met.
While that game resulted in the team's most balanced offensive attack of the season, the defense was a key cog in the winning effort.
Rutgers forced 20 turnovers in the contest and held Syracuse to a 34.8 shooting percentage for the game, playing the defense Stringer's teams have made a living off of.
It was not a perfect win by any means –– the Knights were still outrebounded, 47-34, and still gave up 23 points to sophomore guard Elashier Hall –– but the win was still one of the most well-rounded performances this year that Stringer saw from her team.
And with that kind of performance lacking during the team's losing skid, tapping into that win could provide the spark needed to get back on track.
The Orange enter the contest fresh off a 71-48 blowout at the hands of Notre Dame, but with a win could tie Rutgers in the Big East standings.
Game action kicks off Sunday at noon at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
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