Rutgers, Scarlet Knights, basketball, Big Ten

Rutgers Scarlet Knights fall to Purdue, 68-54

Thursday night, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-15) women’s basketball team fell short to the Purdue Boilermakers (16-7), 68-54. Despite the tough loss for Rutgers, at times it appeared the Knights beat themselves more than they were outplayed. The Knights began the game with a slow start and a lack of energy on both sides of the ball. Conversely, Purdue came out and appeared to try to put the Knights away with their intensity on defense and vigorous ball movement. 

Not to mention, the Knights leading scorer struggled to find her rhythm tonight. On the season, the freshman guard Kaylene Smikle averages 17 points a game, however, on Thursday she recorded only nine points. The majority of these points came late into the game and the flow of the offense struggled for it. 

The Scarlet Knights Breakdown in the First Quarter

In the first quarter, the Knights began the game extremely exciting and showed a ton of promise. Knights star player Smikle scored the game's open points. However, the Knights wouldn’t score another field goal until the last minutes of the quarter. Purdue’s defense forced Rutgers to settle for bad shots and knocked them out of rhythm offensively. Ultimately, this led to tons of fast break and transition opportunities for Purdue. 

The Knights defensively didn’t communicate well, which led to open knockdown shooters like redshirt senior guards Lasha Petree (17) and Cassidy Hardin (12) scoring at will. Both seniors combined for 29 of Purdue’s 68 points. The Knights went into the second quarter trailing, 18-7.

The Knights Begin to Fight Back

In the second quarter, the Knights began to play with some fire, however it may have been too late to close the deficit. At the beginning of the quarter, the Knights showed more of the same in the first, however the game plan appeared to change. Midway through the second, the Knights found a matchup they liked in the paint with their two centers senior Kassondra Brown and junior Chyna Cornwell. Although Rutgers had the size advantage over Purdue when the Boilers went to their small-ball lineup. They still proved to overwhelm the Knights offensively as they continued to find opening looks and knock down tough shots.

“We wanted to go inside, we know they were in a four-guard lineup having Brown and Chyna in together we thought we could take advantage of our height,” Rutgers HC Coquese Washington emphasized in the post-game conference. “The flip side to that is with four guards they have favorable matchups on the offensive end and can run around and shoot. Unfortunately, they were able to exploit that tonight.”


Nonetheless, Rutgers managed to cut down the lead and build a bit of momentum heading into the second half. The Knights trailed the Boilers by 13 heading into halftime., 36-23.


The Boilers came out of the second half looking to put the game away. It was clear, that the emphasis was ball movement and attempting to get the ball to their shooters as much as possible. Purdue continued to set low picks and have their shooters run off of those to the wing to get easy looks at the basket. The game plan appeared to work to perfection as Petree began to find a rhythm. 

That said, Rutgers didn’t back down nor did they ease on the offensive end. In fact, senior guard Awa Sidibe began to take off in the second half and carry the offensive load for the Knights. Sidibe recorded 16 points for the game with 10 of the points coming in the second half. Overall, the Knights centers had an exceptional night finding ways to get to the free-throw line and finishing in traffic. 

The Knights have positives throughout the game to build off, however as they prepare for Iowa on Sunday evening they must prioritize transition defense and ball movement. It appeared when the offense became stagnant it was adjacent to a lack of defense and energy. As the Knights look to improve on Thursday’s performance, some forget the young exciting core of this team. They’ve had growing pains, however they continue to improve and have the potential to be a force within the Big Ten conference in the future.  

“It’s hard for me to find a positive right now, we can and have been better,” Washington expressed. “... We have to find a way to make some progress. In the past, we’ve been better with sharing the ball, communicating, and rebounding. So, there are ways we’ve shown we’re better and didn’t display that tonight.”

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