Rutgers suffers defeat in near identical fashion
The Louis Brown Athletic Center looked eerily similar Thursday night to the scene at the Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, New Jersey, on Monday night.
A change in venue was not enough to change the result for the Rutgers women’s basketball team as the Scarlet Knights created a near carbon copy of their performance against Seton Hall, stumbling out of the blocks to start both halves, resulting in a 69-62 loss to St. John’s in Rutgers (1-2) home opener at the RAC.
For the second consecutive contest, the Knights opened the game flat, allowing the Red Storm (2-1) to jump out to an 11-2 lead on the strength of a 9-0 run to begin the game. Rutgers climbed back into it after junior guard Tyler Scaife got hot, hitting 4-of-9 from the floor to close the first half with 10 points for the Knights.
The second half resembled the outset of the first. Rutgers again fell behind early, getting outscored 22-13 in the third quarter, allowing the Johnnies to extend their lead to 19 at 56-37, before the final frame began.
The Knights mounted a comeback, outscoring the Storm 25-13 in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer spoke of similar disappointment in the performance on Thursday night, as she demonstrated against the Pirates.
“I don’t know whether we just think that somebody is going to give it to us instead of us jumpin’ out there,” Stringer said postgame. “We keep coming from 15 and 20 points back, being able to bring it relatively close in the first half and then as soon as they come out in the second half, they knock out 6 or 8 points. That’s exactly what happened at Seton Hall.”
The slow start in the third period was too much to overcome and despite scoring the most points for either team in one quarter with 25 in the fourth, Rutgers was unable to recover.
Stringer pointed to the team’s starts to both halves as crucial to determining the outcome of the home opener.
“Look at the first three minutes of the Seton Hall game, look at the first three minutes of this game. Everybody knows that at the beginning of the game, you gotta establish who you are in the first five minutes,” Stringer said. “It’s the first five minutes in the second half that’s most important because if you can establish that, then you are in rhythm and you have established who you are defensively or offensively. We didn’t do that. And why, I’m not sure.”
Scaife certainly did all she could to lift the Knights in front of 2,226 fans in attendance at the RAC. The junior guard scored a team-high 23 points on 7-17 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds and four assists. But Scaife failed to get the support from her teammates on the offensive end.
As a team, Rutgers shot 37.7 percent from the field and putting the leading scorer’s shooting aside, the rest of the roster hit just 15-of-42 attempts from the floor in this contest.
Scaife attributed her success to aggressiveness toward the basket, giving the Little Rock, Arkansas, native more opportunities at the charity stripe, where she shot a perfect 9-for-9.
“I was trying to get to the free throw line more today,” Scaife said. “I had a sense of urgency to get to the free throw line so I feel like that was more my groove. The other games I think I got to the free throw line like one time.”
After scoring 30 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in her homecoming in Philadelphia at St. Joseph’s to open the season, senior wing Kahleah Copper has struggled to get into a groove offensively since.
Copper dropped 17 points at the Hall in game two, but didn’t register her first points until nearly 15 minutes into the game.
The home opener was not much different.
Copper first got on the board with 7:48 remaining in the second quarter, but failed to find her shot the rest of the game. She finished with 11 points and six rebounds on an uncharacteristic 4-of-13 from the field.
“If I’m not hitting shots, I have to find other things to do,” Copper said. “I have to get to the rebounds. If I feel like I’m not hitting shots I can do other things. I can play defense, I can get rebounds. So I think I have to focus on doing something different … having a plan B.”
Remarkably, neither Rutgers nor the visiting Red Storm scored any points in the paint in a 40-minute affair. But that nugget will do nothing to comfort the Knights head coach, who was left scratching her head after the second consecutive lackluster performance.
“We’re playing — not in a flow — but we’re playing like we’re scared,” Stringer said. “Instead of trusting that we can make the next pass and let it flow. Surprisingly enough, if that was happening during practice, we’d have something to say, but it’s not happening in practice, it’s happening in a game. That’s why I’m stunned like ‘What the heck? And that’s all I can say.”
For updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @kevinPXavier and @TargumSports on Twitter.
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