The Rutgers women’s basketball team held on for a 64-56 win against New Orleans this afternoon. The Scarlet Knights (6-8, 0-2) finished their week 1-1 before their Big Ten Conference schedule resumes after Christmas.
Rutgers jumped out to a 21-5 lead over the Privateers (1-7, 0-0) at the 2:41 mark of the first quarter after two successful free throws from senior guard Awa Sidibe. Freshman guard Kaylene Smikle drained two three-pointers during that span and had 10 points in the quarter.
New Orleans then scored an unanswered 9 points to end the first quarter to make it 21-14. Tiana Gipson was good from beyond the arc and Justice Ross hit a three in the waning seconds of the opening quarter.
Later on, a Smikle steal and pass to senior guard Kai Carter for a layup gave the Knights a 26-18 lead at the 5:11 mark of the second quarter. Junior guard Erica Lafayette hit a three with less than 2 minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Privateers had a quick answer with a three-point shot of their own.
Lafayette sent Rutgers to the half on a high note after she swished in a three-pointer as time expired. The Knights led New Orleans 35-23 when the first half buzzer sounded.
The Privateers opened up the second half with a three from DeArica Pryor, but Rutgers answered back with 6 points on three field goals. Sidibe scored off two layups with one of them coming on a nice takeaway and fast break to the basket. The Knights led 41-26 at the 7:56 mark of the third quarter.
New Orleans went on a 14-5 run from that point on to end the third quarter of play. Zoe Cooper scored 8 points in that span for the Privateers.
New Orleans scored the first 5 points of the fourth quarter and were within 1 point when Pryor hit a three to make the score 46-45. Sidibe hit a layup plus the foul afterwards to extend the lead back to 4 points. Gipson answered with another Privateers three-point shot and helped her team to a 1-point deficit again.
At the 2:43 mark of the fourth quarter, Smikle took an errant pass from New Orleans coast-to-coast and capitalized on the three-point play after getting fouled on her way to the rim. After the free throw, Rutgers led 58-51.
The Knights stayed on course the rest of the way and got the edge over the Privateers for the win.
Smikle led the team in points for the second consecutive game with 19. Sidibe and junior forward Chyna Cornwell followed up with 15 points each. Cornwell also led the team with 13 rebounds and earned her fifth double-double of the season, leading the Big Ten in that category.
Rutgers only had 14 turnovers today which was the first time in the last seven games it has given the ball away less than 20 times. Limiting the turnovers was key in today’s game and will be key with the bulk of the in-conference schedule coming up.
The Knights will next face off against Penn State in just under two weeks for their third in-conference game of the season. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Dec. 30 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. The game will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+ as well as 88.7 WRSU-FM.
“I don’t think the level of competition is going to be foreign to us at all...” said head coach Coquese Washington after the game. “Our focus (is) being locked in. We got to bring that for 40 minutes because there’s no off nights in the Big Ten, and I think we know that and I think we are ready for it.”
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