Rutgers loses on road to Michigan in 71-57 defeat

Six days after taking on Michigan State at home, the Rutgers women’s basketball team faced Michigan on the road for an opportunity to rebound from a loss that featured a lack of bench production to go along with a weak defensive showing.

Though the Scarlet Knights (15-4, 5-3) found their offensive catalyst off the bench against the Wolverines (13-6, 4-4) on Sunday in the name of sophomore guard Zipporah Broughton, Rutgers was still unable to provide a strong defensive front against a Michigan offense that didn’t let up until the last quarter of the game. 

The Knights, coming off a matchup with the Spartans (11-9, 4-5) where they were outscored 38-27 in the first two periods of the game, were outscored 55-37 in the first three periods against the Wolverines. Any resistance Rutgers put up in the matchup came in the fourth quarter of the game.

“When we apply the pressure, and we can put it on — we could’ve done that at the beginning,” head coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “So, we don’t know why, you know, somebody’s kicking us in the behind and then we decided we were gonna play.”

When the Knights did seem to apply the defensive pressure Stringer was referring to in the fourth quarter, Michigan looked to already have the game in hand. It held a 21-point lead midway through the period before Rutgers was able to cut it down to 14 points with 43 seconds remaining in the matchup itself.

Part of the reason for the Knights’ inability to contain the Wolverines can be found when looking at the box score. Rutgers fell victim to 15 turnovers on offense in the first quarter alone and put itself in a hole that would prove to be inescapable for the rest of the game.

“We’re messing with our future, period,” Stringer said. “We should’ve played much tougher, and that was a problem that we had at the beginning (of the season), but you couldn’t recognize that due to the schedule that we played.”

In the early part of their schedule, the Knights played a string of four games against South Alabama, Coppin State, Niagara and Harvard that were won by margins of 21 points or more. 

Those schools do not have the same amount of talent that Rutgers currently possesses, though, and despite showing its ability to compete against teams of a higher caliber toward the end of November, the Knights’ only true test of the season came on December 31st in their matchup with Indiana.

Rutgers lost that game by a final score of 66-56 and was unable to pull together a strong, all-around performance. The only points to come from the Knights’ bench were from true freshman center Maori Davenport, who had 2 points in the loss. 

While Rutgers had more contribution from its bench this time around in the form of Broughton, who finished the afternoon with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting and a 3-of-5 mark from beyond, the Knights again proved to be the inferior squad on the court.

In the games ahead, Rutgers will take on Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State, Maryland and Michigan State before another contest with Michigan. The Knights will need to learn to develop as a team with a chip on their shoulder if any sort of retribution is to be had against the Spartans and Wolverines.

“We know what we’ve gotta do,” Stringer said. “So, hopefully, we’re gonna run the table on the next group of games that we have.”