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Johnnies’ tempo proves too much for Knights

Knight Notebook

<p>Freshman Betnijah Laney led all bench players with 23 minutes
against St. John’s, scoring seven points in a losing effort.</p>

Freshman Betnijah Laney led all bench players with 23 minutes against St. John’s, scoring seven points in a losing effort.

NEW YORK — The Rutgers women’s basketball team has been a well-oiled conundrum all season.

The Scarlet Knights are a team that continues to live and die by head coach C. Vivian Stringer’s 55-press, but they aren’t afraid to pick up the tempo when a fast-break opportunity arises.

St. John’s spent most of the time running the court yesterday at Carnesecca Arena though.

The Red Storm’s three fast-break baskets and the not-so-high score of their 62-57 win do not fully display the effectiveness of their high-motion offense, but the free-throw numbers do.

St. John’s attempt 32 free throws to Rutgers’ 10, and the Johnnies capitalized by sinking 26-of-32.

“We were playing them like they were shooting, but they ended up driving on us,” said guard Khadijah Rushdan. “And they ended up at the free-throw line too many times.”

Leading scorer Eugenia McPherson carried the torch for St. John’s at the line, sinking 11-of-13.

The junior guard’s 7-of-8 free throw shooting in the first half also erased Rutgers’ early 15-6 lead, which steadily became 15-15.

April Sykes failed to put a point on the board last year against St. John’s and her performance yesterday was reminiscent of such struggles.

The senior forward quickly broke the 1,000-point mark for her career on the first Knights possession, but Sykes left the court only a few possessions later.

Sykes exercised full energy by diving for a loose ball, but could barely walk when she hobbled off the floor only 90 seconds into the game. Betnijah Laney took over for Sykes two minutes into the game and stayed on the court for 13 minutes of the first half.

Sykes played only eight minutes of the first half, but she was forced on the court for 18 minutes in the second half due to Laney’s foul trouble.

The forward struggled, sinking only one basket in her 6-point performance.

Sykes’s injury and Laney’s fourth foul six minutes into the second half forced some creative thinking out of Stringer, one of which included using guard Jaymee Tucker for some of her first non-blowout minutes.

“If we were doing what we needed to do when we needed to do that, we would not have had to do that,” Stringer said. “I needed her in to do what we needed to do, but Jaymee fouled in 30 seconds.”

Only No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 5 Connecticut stand above Rutgers in the national rankings among Big East teams, and the idea of Rutgers leaping above them in the rankings at some point this season is a feasible idea.

But toppling these two teams in turnover margin is more of an uphill battle.

The Irish and the Huskies doubled the Knights’ turnover margin, which was 4.00 entering St. John’s, but the Knights decreased that number by turning it over more than their opponent, which has not been uncommon this season.

The Knights played into the Red Storm’s game and turned it over 21 times as compared to nine St. John’s turnovers.

“You can’t have 21 turnovers and expect to win the game,” Stringer said.

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