Johnnies beat RU at own game in Queens
NEW YORK — History was not in favor of the Rutgers women’s basketball team last night against St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena.
In the last two meetings with the Johnnies, the Scarlet Knights were winless.
To find a Knight victory, one would have to look back to 2009, when the current players had little or no college experience. In an effort to end the streak, senior guard April Sykes wasted no time reaching the milestone of 1,000 career points. She entered the game just 1 point shy of the mark and passed it on the game’s opening possession.
But that was as good as it would get for the Knights, who fell to St. John’s, 62-57.
St. John’s (12-7, 4-2) kept the game close by doing its best impersonation of No. 7 Rutgers (15-3, 4-1).
The Red Storm pressed on most possessions, forced turnovers and tried to work the ball inside.
They generated more giveaways and drew more fouls than the Knights, which kept them in the game.
“If you look at the makeup of both of us, we’re very similar,” said St. John’s head coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We forced them into a lot of turnovers and got into the lane. Obviously, that really helped us win the game.”
One thing the Johnnies could not replicate was Rutgers’ depth.
While Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer followed her usual formula of using the majority of her bench, Barnes Arico did not have that luxury.
Four Red Storm players played 18 out of 20 first half minutes while only senior guard Khadijah Rushdan and junior center Monique Oliver reached that mark for the Knights.
But Rutgers’ depth was not the factor it normally is.
Stringer’s constant substituting is typically an attempt to get everyone involved.
It was an attempt at finding a group last night that could sustain a lead.
St. John’s quickly erased Rutgers’ 6-point halftime lead and continued to force turnovers, prompting five lead changes in six minutes.
It left Stringer on the bench, shaking her head in disbelief.
Possibly trying to send a message to the rest over her team, Stringer brought in walk-on Jaymee Tucker just three minutes into the second half.
“I was hoping Jaymee would demonstrate it,” Stringer said.
It did not work.
St. John’s kept up the pressure and the Knights kept sliding, collecting seven fouls in just under nine minutes. Following the seventh foul, Stringer opted for her starting five in hopes of recapturing a comfortable lead.
But the team continued to turn the ball over while forcing none of its own.
In addition, it continued to foul the Johnnies while rarely earning trips to the charity stripe.
St. John’s finished 26-of-32 from the line while Rutgers attempted just 10 free throws as a team.
Rutgers’ main issue defensively was containing junior guards Eugenia McPherson, Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith.
McPherson led the team with 17 points — 11 from the line — McKenith finished with 15 points and Smith added 14 of her own.
“There was nothing alarmingly different,” Stringer said. “The [St. John’s] guards did a nice job.”
Rutgers had just two bright spots: Oliver and Rushdan.
Oliver totaled 14 points and five rebounds in 38 minutes of play while Rushdan finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
The Knights made a run at the end of the game, but they fell short.
As the clock ticked down, the Knights pulled within one possession, but an off-balance 3-pointer from Sykes with ten seconds left bounced out.
Now the Knights have to wait until Feb. 12 for a rematch when St. John’s comes to the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
“We didn’t redeem ourselves until the end,” Sykes said, “but by then, it was too late.”
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