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Rutgers women's basketball suffers 2nd-half struggles in loss to No. 14 Michigan

Freshman guard Kaylene Smikle and the Rutgers women's basketball team struggled to gain momentum in yesterday's loss to No. 14 Michigan. – Photo by @RUAthletics / Twitter

The Rutgers women’s basketball team was defeated by Michigan last night by a score of 81-58. The Scarlet Knights (8-11, 2-5) started off the first quarter strong but were ultimately dominated by the No. 14 Wolverines (16-3, 6-2).

Rutgers went toe-to-toe with Michigan in the first quarter. After trailing 4-0 to start off the game, senior center Kassondra Brown hit a layup. In the ensuing defensive possession, freshman guard Kaylene Smikle took the ball away from the Wolverines near half-court. She drove to the lane and missed the layup, but senior guard Awa Sidibe snagged the offensive rebound and put back her own layup to tie the game up.

Throughout the opening period of play, the score would be tied multiple times at 6 points, 8 points and 12 points. Guard Leigha Brown gave Michigan the lead again with a 2-point bucket. By the end of the first quarter, the Knights were down 18-14 but showed a good fight.

Guard Greta Kampschroeder hit the game’s first three of the night at the 8:29 mark of the second quarter. The Wolverines led 21-16 at this point. Senior guard Kai Carter answered right away to lessen the deficit to 3 points, but Michigan finished the quarter strong with a 20-12 run that included 9 points and a three-pointer from forward Emily Kiser.

At the half, the Wolverines led over Rutgers by a score of 41-30. The Knights turned the ball over 13 times in the first half. 

The second half was a showcase of Rutgers’ struggles. Michigan opened the third quarter with a 16-4 run that was highlighted by a three-pointer drained by Leigha Brown.

At the 3:59 mark of the third quarter, graduate student guard Abby Streeter hit the Knights’ first three-pointer of the game, but it seemed like it was in vain as the Wolverines led 57-37 at that point in the game.

Michigan outscored Rutgers 40-28 in a decisive second half and earned another victory. The team was much more dominant from the field as it hit approximately 50 percent of shots from the field. The Knights hit approximately 38 percent of their shots from the field.

Kiser and guard Laila Phelia dominated the score sheet for the Wolverines as Kiser scored 25 points while Phelia scored 23 points. Both shooters were perfect from the free throw line as they hit a combined 14-of-14 shots from the stripe.

Carter led Rutgers in points with 17 in the contest. Smikle was noticeably quiet but still scored 12 points.

Head coach Coquese Washington attributes the Knights’ second-half struggles to Michigan’s great play.

"They’re a really good team, and I thought they came out the second half and turned up their aggressiveness, their intensity on the defensive end," Washington said. "They’re a top-15 team for a reason, and they showed it in the second half."

Rutgers will look to bounce back after dropping two straight. The program will head to the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan, to face off against Michigan State this Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m., with the game being broadcasted on Big Ten Network+ as well as 88.7 WRSU-FM.

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

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