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Rutgers blows chance at marquee win

What has eluded the Rutgers women’s basketball team for the last several weeks — a marquee victory — did so again yesterday in Louisville, Ky.

Although the Scarlet Knights’ opportunities to play ranked opponents this season have been scarce, they failed to take advantage of a golden one at the KFC Yum! Center.

After dropping a close contest to Louisville at the Louis Brown Athletic Center nearly four weeks prior, No. 25 Rutgers regressed in its rematch with the No. 3 Cardinals.

The Knights (20-6, 11-4) initially played toe-to-toe with Louisville (27-2, 15-1), leading by as many as 5 points almost seven minutes in. They held a 21-19 edge with 9:03 to play in the first.

Then the Cardinals went on a 15-5 run to close the half and pulled away in the second period for a 73-58 home victory. Rutgers is now 1-4 against ranked teams, with its only win coming Dec. 21 at the RAC against then-No. 16 Georgia.

One of Rutgers’ points of emphasis coming in was slowing down guard Shoni Schimmel, who leads the AAC in 3-point field goals by a wide margin.

The Knights held Schimmel to 13 points — below her season average of 17.6 — on 5-of-14 field goals. As a whole, the Cardinals shot just 5-for-23 from beyond the arc.

But Rutgers granted too many points in the paint.

Louisville forward Asia Taylor went off for 25 points and 12 rebounds, while fellow forward Sara Hammond added her own double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Freshman guard Tyler Scaife led the Knights in scoring with 17 points but dished out only one assist while committing four turnovers.

Sophomore wing Kahleah Copper and junior wing Betnijah Laney combined for nine turnovers as Rutgers reverted to old habits and suffered 18 as a team — twice as many as Louisville.

With Rutgers down, 38-28, with 17:38 to play, Copper sunk a layup as she got fouled and converted at the free throw line to cut the lead to 38-31.

That was when Louisville exploded.

The Cardinals went on runs of 8-0 and 18-5 to pull ahead by as many as 20 points. The Knights went on a 2-for-11 shooting slump during their drought.

Sophomore guard Briyona Canty cut Rutgers’ deficit to 69-58 with a jumper with 2:35 left, but the Knights never scored again.

With only three regular season AAC games remaining, Rutgers is still likely to finish third in the conference. It can potentially get one more chance against Louisville in the semifinals of the AAC tournament held March 7 to 10 in Uncasville, Conn.

For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GregJohnsonRU. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

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