VILLANOVA, Pa. 2/18/2012 – The Villanova Wildcats came into the game looking to break a three game losing streak, and started the game playing well. However, the athletic advantage of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights began to assert itself and Rutgers comes away earning a 61 – 52 over Villanova. Junior forward Laura Sweeney led the Wildcats with 19 points.
“I thought we contained then for a while, then the problem was we couldn’t contain them off the dribble and stop them from getting to the hoop,” said Villanova Coach Harry Perretta.
For Villanova to win the game, they would have to establish the tempo and make three-point shots. Villanova had an offensive rhythm early. The Wildcats held the lead early, and led 16 – 14 on a three ball by Sophomore guard Devon Kane with 6:58 on the clock. Rutgers turned up the defensive pressure. The Scarlet Knights began to get to the basket leading 30 – 25 at halftime. The trend continued in the second half as Rutgers moved in front 44 – 32 with 12:06 to play. Villanova got to within 5, but could not sustain a run to stay in contention.
Rutgers was causing turnovers. Villanova committed 12, but it was not the number that was the problem, it was the points off turnovers that hurt Villanova. Rutgers got 19 points off Villanova turnovers. The Wildcats got only 10 off 13 Rutgers miscues. The Scarlet Knights made the Wildcats pay for their mistakes.
“It disrupts us,” Perretta said of the Rutgers defensive pressure. “It throws us off our kilter. You can’t run your offense as well because they disrupted us getting into the passing lanes.”
Rutgers got into the open floor and was able to get to the basket off dribble-drives. The points in the paint advantage was 28 – 18 for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights attempted 48 shots in the game, only 8 three-pointers. The third piece of the puzzle for Rutgers was to limit the three-point shooting of Villanova. They did as the Wildcats made only 6 of 31 from beyond the arc. The athleticism of the Rutgers players forced Villanova to rush many of the three-point shots.
“For us to win we had to make a minimum of 10 threes,” said Perretta. “Our rule was to get as many threes up as possible. We put up 31 but you have to make at least 10 to be able to win the game.”
Sweeney did have her offensive game going making 6 of 9 from the floor and 7 of 9 free throws for her 19 points. Sweeney also had a team-high 6 rebounds. Junior guard Rachel Roberts scored 9 points. Junior forward Megan Pearson contributed 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Rutgers had three double-digit scorers as forward April Sykes had a game-high 20 points and 7 rebounds. Guards Erica Wheeler and Khadijah Rushdan scored 16 and 13, and each player had 4 rebounds.
With the win Rutgers snaps a 5 game losing streak. The Knights return home to play Seton Hall as they retain an eighth place standings in the conference. Villanova is 15 – 12 on the year, 5 – 9 in the Big East. The Wildcats came into the game tied for tenth place. With the loss Villanova has lost four in a row, and have yet to defeat a top eight team in the Big East.
The game featured a clash of the two of the most tenured coached in the country. Perretta has coached in the Big East Conference longer than any basketball coach in the league. Rutgers Coach Vivian Stringer is in her 17th year at Rutgers and 41st overall as a collegiate head coach. Stringer is a successful coach who had made the Final Four with three different schools. She began her head coaching career at Cheyney making the Final Four in 1982. Stringer moved to Iowa getting to the Final Four in 1993. Her Rutgers teams played in the Final Four in 2000 and 2007, the season in which Rutgers played in the national championship game. Her teams shared the court at Cheyney with the men who were coached by John Chaney. The both Stringer and Chaney are enshrined members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I have the utmost respect for Harry,” said Stringer. “I have major headaches coming here, but I’m glad we came out as far as we did (on defense). Otherwise Harry would have had them shooting from out there all day. We went with the people who would get out there and make things happen.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian