Rutgers Women's Basketball Holds Back USF, 60-52
Rushdan Leads Way with 17 Points, 12 in the Second Half
TAMPA, Fla. (February 6, 2010) – Three players scored in double figures as Rutgers used a second-half surge to power past USF, 60-52 in BIG EAST women’s basketball action on Saturday afternoon at the Sun Dome.
Sophomore Khadijah Rushdan (Wilmington, Del.) tallied a team-best 17 points, her fourth game in the last five showings in double-figures. Senior Brittany Ray (Bronx, N.Y.) had 12 points to bring her career total to 999 while Rashidat Junaid (Chesilhurst, N.J.) added 11 for the Scarlet Knights (13-10, 5-4).
Eight players registered two or more rebounds for RU, who snapped a three-game slide. The Scarlet Knights reached season-highs in both free throws made (23) and attempted (34).
Senior Jessica Lawson scored 33 points for the Bulls (13-9, 4-5), the most by an opposing player this season. The senior scored 20 straight points that bridged both halves.
After RU took a 3-2 lead, USF scored the game’s next 12 consecutive points over a nearly five-minute span. The Bulls closed the run with an old-fashioned three-point play by KaNeisha Saunders to take a 14-3 advantage. The Scarlet Knights ended their scoreless drought with a 5-0 run - three of those points coming from Rushdan - to pull to 14-8 with 11:03 to go in the half. Rushdan scored five of RU’s first eight points.
RU cut the gap to four (16-12) on a pair from the free throw line from Junaid and a fast-break lay-in by sophomore April Sykes (Starkville, Miss.) with just over seven minutes to go in the stanza. Lawson responded for USF, scoring six straight - five of those from the charity stripe – for a 23-16 lead with 2:19 on the clock.
Ray hit a long basket from the far corner and Myia McCurdy (Cincinnati, Ohio) added a field goal from the right elbow as Rutgers closed to 23-20 as the teams headed to the locker rooms at the half.
The Knights chased down Lawson and the Bulls, closing to one point four times in the first eight minutes of the second half. They took their first lead since the early going at the 11:22 mark on a floater by Rushdan to give RU a 36-35 lead.
The contest see-sawed back-and-forth as the visitors moved ahead by four (43-39) on a three-pointer from the right wing by Nikki Speed (Pasadena, Calif.) with 8:17 to play. USF rolled off six straight points, four of those from Lawson, to go ahead, 45-43 with 5:47 showing.
Three straight buckets by three different players gave RU a lead it would not relinquish. The 6-0 spurt was capped by a driving lay-up from Ray with 4:34 remaining. USF climbed to within one on Lawson’s last field goal of the game but could get no closer. With a 50-49 lead, Ray increased the advantage to 52-49 with a short jumper in the paint with 2:34 to play.
Junaid blocked a shot on USF’s next possession and RU forced the squad to shoot an air ball, in which they grabbed the rebound, on the next defensive stop. The Scarlet Knights’ press forced a travel call with 1:23 to go, getting the ball back. Sophomore Chelsey Lee (Miami, Fla.), fouled on an offensive put-back, hit two from the stripe to put some distance on the scoreboard at 54-49 with 54.8 seconds left.
RU hit six of eight from the line in the final 39 seconds en route to the 60-52 victory.
The Scarlet Knights host intra-state rival Seton Hall on Wednesday evening at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at 7:30 p.m.
C. VIVIAN STRINGER
Q: Talk about the play of Jessica Lawson:
“She had a monster game today. For her as a post to have gotten 14 shots is a bit much but those are direct passes. She was also hitting her free throws. She only got one offensive rebounds which tells me they were directly making the passes to her. The only adjustment I was trying to make was to put another person in there. She was presenting wide and sealing. We switched and went into a zone (32-Perfect) and that gave us an actual weak-side position but we only did that for a couple of minutes. I have seen enough tape that if we were not there step-by-step with USF that they would be comfortable. They execute very well and because I know they are capable of hitting that. Perfect looks like a zone. Rashidat Junaid started to try and get around a little more and she was able to get the intercept.”
Q: After three straight losses to top-25 competitions, how crucial was this?
“Our schedule has had a choke-hold on us since the beginning of the year. We’ve not gotten the chance to get a couple of games in a row where we can be comfortable and confident. I just do know that had we won some of those close games that we’d have a lot more confidence. I saw things out there today that I hadn’t seen before today. We just got nervous and that’s to be expected. It’s a huge win and for us to win here (at USF). USF is a nice team and they’ve beaten some formidable opponents. People don’t realize how good they are. It is huge; anything we do on the win column is huge.”
Q: What are you pleased with beside the W?
“We found a way to win and before we found ways to lose. I thought the team stayed composed and we played hard in our 55-press. We knew what we needed to do and not foul. I appreciate the fight that was there. We haven’t rebounded like that in some time. And last , but probably most important to our team is that we probably at the bottom of the BIG EAST if not at the bottom in defending the three-point shot and this team is one of the better three-point shooting teams in the BIG EAST. They left heck of a big impression on when we played them last when (Janae) Stokes dropped six three’s at our place. We have made an adjustment in playing Nikki Speed at the two and not the one. We have done a lot of things to try and adjust and I am happy with the win.”