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Knights drop home contest to Northwestern

The Rutgers women’s basketball team has been a wildcard this season when it comes to the third quarter. Sunday afternoon against Northwestern, it proved to be the point where Northwestern put the Scarlet Knights (6-16, 3-6) to bed en route to a 55-37 victory for the Wildcats.

As they typically do, the Scarlet Knights started off strong, jumping out to a quick 6-0 lead. That held for the rest of the first quarter, but the Wildcats wore them down over the course of the second quarter and took a 22-19 lead into halftime. Three points is not a daunting deficit for any team, but those three points turned into 13 points in just two and half minutes. 

By the end of the third quarter, Northwestern held a 44-26 lead, one that proved to be insurmountable for Rutgers.

It's not very complicated why the Knights lost — Northwestern simply made more shots. On field goals, the Wildcats shot 45.8 percent while the Rutgers hit just 25 percent. The marks were almost identical for three-pointers as well.

Often times, the team seemed lost and disorganized on offense, turning the ball over 20 times and committing multiple shot-clock violations.

“I can’t even tell you how many times we didn’t even run the right cuts,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “(We) didn’t set the screens on the right people. It was crazy stuff.”

Sophomore forward Aliyah Jeune was the only Knight in double figures with 14 points and despite being the leading scorer, she recognized that the team cannot play the way that it did in the future.

“We weren’t really focused as much as we should’ve been,” she said. “We made an agreement before the game that we would get to the free throw line and we didn’t really accomplish that. So I feel like we just need to focus up and get better.”

Also for the Knights, junior guard Jaz Rollins made just her sixth start of the season coming off a career performance against Maryland. Despite only scoring 4 points against the Wildcats, she has seen her playing time steadily increase over the course of Big Ten play.

“What’s been different for me is I’ve been more focused in trying to keep my energy up for the team,” she said. “(I’m) just trying to step up and help out.”

On the other side of the court, Northwestern had two players, Lauren Douglas and Amber Jamison, contribute double-figures performances. The Wildcats also benefited from superior ball movement of point guard Ashley Deary, who finished the game with six assists.

“Handling the ball, (Deary) created a lot of problems,” Stringer said. “I thought that their players were aggressive and we seemed very tentative.”

Northwestern had no star player on Sunday, despite having standout Nia Coffey on the roster. They were powered by leadership from multiple upperclassmen and strong defense on Rutgers.

“I recognize that they’ve got four seniors and one junior and they’re playing really well,” said Stringer of the Wildcats. “And Coffey is an outstanding player. But the others are an outstanding group too. They’re not ‘fill in the blanks.’ They’re legitimate players.”

The Knights could not contain the Wildcats’ ball movement, which led to plenty of open looks from three-point range in their 22-point third quarter. Rutgers could not respond to those made shots in the penultimate period, which is what gave Northwestern the game.

Rutgers will look to end its 3-game losing streak on Thursday night when the Knights travel to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes in the second contest between the two teams this season. Iowa took the first game in Piscataway, 71-59.

The Knights will need to clean up their sloppy play and fix the numerous offensive errors Stringer talked about in her postgame presser. And in that press conference, she summed up the game against Northwestern as well as she could.

“I don’t have any words for it. I don’t have any words.”