RU?takes on unranked foe in USF Bulls
If the Rutgers women’s basketball team had a few more minutes to complete a comeback Tuesday night, the conversation would be completely different. But like it or not, the Scarlet Knights (15-3, 4-1) face a rebound game tomorrow when they travel to South Florida (11-8, 3-2).
St. John’s shocked No. 7 Rutgers and head coach C. Vivian Stringer when it secured a 5-point victory. Fouls and turnovers sank the Knights and they left Carnesecca Arena victims of history, unable to topple a team they had trouble with in the past.
“We forced them into a lot of turnovers and we were able to get in the lane,” said St. John’s head coach Kim Barnes Arico. “Even when we weren’t able to score, we were able to draw fouls.”
So now instead of trying to maintain a perfect record in Big East play, the Knights are focusing on starting another winning streak in the Sunshine State.
But that will be no easy task.
Although the Bulls are unranked, they proved to be a formidable conference opponent with three Big East wins, two against ranked opponents.
While the Knights are ranked higher than any foe South Florida saw this season, they do not have momentum on their side.
Rutgers limps into Tampa, Fla., on the back of its first loss to an unranked opponent while the Bulls enter the evening with a two-game win streak, including an overtime victory over No. 21 DePaul.
In addition to the win streak, USF has junior guard Inga Orekhova, who will play her fifth game after sitting out the first 15.
No. 1 on the list of concerns for the Knights is senior guard Jasmine Wynne, who leads South Florida in both points per game (16.1) and rebounds per game (six).
The biggest plus for Rutgers is the absence of guard Andrea Smith, who dropped 20 points and eight rebounds last season on the Knights. Smith tore her ACL last year and is redshirting while she recovers from surgery rather than attempting to make her season debut later this year.
In order to resume their winning ways, the Knights need to get their defense and full-court pressure back on track.
They average 3.1 less turnovers per game than their opponents on the season.
Against the Johnnies, Rutgers committed 12 more turnovers and 12 less points off giveaways.
The Bulls also average 4.4 less turnovers than opponents, so the Knights’ task will be no easier than it was three days ago.
The second piece absent from the game against St. John’s was senior guard April Sykes. Rutgers’ leading scorer put up just six points Tuesday compared to her 14.2 points per game average.
Finally, the Knights need to fix the foul-shot disparity.
St. John’s took 32 foul shots, connecting on 26 of them, while Rutgers attempted only 10 free throws.
South Florida shoots nearly 70 percent as a team, so it will not be any better sending the Bulls to the line than it was with the Johnnies.
If the Knights put in the same effort tomorrow that they did on Tuesday, they can expect a similar result.
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