Rutgers suffers 3rd loss of season at Virginia Tech

After returning from a 2-1 loss at the Vancouver Showcase last weekend, the Rutgers women’s basketball team struggled against Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday evening. 

The Scarlet Knights (5-3) fell 67-51 to the undefeated Hokies (8-0) in Blacksburg, Va. at the Cassell Coliseum.

In the first quarter, Virginia Tech relied heavily on its 3-point shooting. The Hokies shot 5 of 7 from beyond the arc. 

Rutgers kept the game close in the opening quarter, making 10 of its 16 points in the paint. With 4 minutes remaining in the quarter, Virginia Tech led with an 8-0 run, ending 5 points ahead of the Knights at the end of the first quarter.

At halftime, the two teams were tied at 31.

Rutgers shot a .500 field goal percentage compared to a .308 percentage for the Hokies in the second quarter. Graduate student guard Charise Wilson made the Knights' only 3-pointer of the night. 

In the third quarter, graduate student guard Sierra Calhoun scored 7 out of Rutgers' 10 points. The Knights claimed an early lead before Virginia Tech went on a 12-3 run to finish the quarter with a 4-point lead.

Rutgers only scored 8 points on a .222 field goal percentage in the fourth quarter, led by fifth-year senior forward Stasha Carey’s 6 points. Unlike the Knights, the Hokies were able to close in stellar fashion with a 7-0 run in the final 6 minutes of play to take the win, 67-51.

Head coach C. Vivian Stringer recognized Virginia Tech’s stretched offense, which forced Rutgers to switch up its game plan.

“When you have people that shoot the ball as well as they could, it was forcing us to come out beyond the 3-point range,” Stringer said. “If we’re not guarding the ball, which we didn’t do anywhere near as well as we need to, they're getting opportunities to get in the hole.”

Wilson and Calhoun both shot 4-9 from the field. Calhoun made 5 out of 6 free throws while Carey and senior center Victoria Harris went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.

The Knights averaged a .373 total field goal percentage against the Hokies.

“I can tell you we’re still not as quick as we need to be,” Stringer said. “We’re still not as consistent as we need to be in the shooting and it’s an excuse that I hope we can remedy really soon, and that's a number of those players.

Looking at Rutgers’ performance, Stringer was not pleased with the circumstances the Knights have faced over the past week. One of the biggest factors why Rutgers was unable to keep the game close was due to fatigue.  

Besides external factors, the Knights have not had time to practice together as a team, due to numerous injuries. Since September, Calhoun has been absent, and only practiced the day before the team flew to Vancouver. Sophomore guard Arella Guirantes was out for five weeks, as she was recovering from a concussion. 

Freshman guard Zipporah Broughton was also out for more than two weeks due to an injury, and was finally able to play again in Vancouver.

“I just don’t think we’ve been playing together long enough and it’s hurting us,” Stringer said. “In some instances, I would take somebody off because they didn’t know where they needed to go. It was necessarily their fault as much as it was that when you play longer, you know that what you’re doing and where you’re supposed to be going."

Rutgers will have time to settle down and can improve for the next week and a half. The Knights will play Harvard on Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. in Boston, Mass.

“We just have to get some rest, get in shape, run the plays, get busy and come out in the end because I know that we’re better than what we’re looking like,” Stringer said. "Right now, it’s not looking good.”

For updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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