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Rutgers overcomes sluggish play, tame Lady Tigers

Rutgers was able to withstand foul trouble from two of their best players and beat LSU, 69-57.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

PISCATAWAY, NJ -- Rutgers (9-3) beat the LSU Lady Tigers (6-5) 69-57 in their final nonconference game Saturday afternoon at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).

"We looked at LSU as just another team with a different jersey. We're just here to compete and play hard," said senior Kahleah Copper.

It was Copper who opened up the game with a jump shot for Rutgers as the Scarlet Knights battled back and forth with the LSU Lady Tigers. The Lady Tigers seemed to fold under the substantial pressure of the Scarlet Knights, but it didn't stop them from finding opportunities inside the paint and capitalizing on some plays. Rutgers maintained the lead against LSU for the first half making it a 20-17 finish for a weak 1st quarter.

"It's important for the underclassmen to step up. It takes a lot of pressure off of the upperclassmen knowing that we can count on them," said Scarlet Knight junior Tyler Scaife.

As the second quarter started, Anne Pedersen, Ann Jones, and  Rina Hill, who roared back at the Scarlet Knights closing the gap 27-27 with 5 minutes remaining. It was the quick sharp passes inside the paint that aided LSU into gaining a brief 32-30 lead.

However, with both teams evenly matched, Rutgers' Shrita Parker found herself with two 3-pointers, quickly eliminating LSU's lead. Coming off the bench, Cynthia Hernandez found space and hit a three-pointer and brought the Scarlet Knights ahead. With 9 seconds left, Ashli Juene and Victoria Harris made their way to the free-throw line, and were only able to capitalize with one point.

The Scarlet Knights lead the Lady Tigers 37-34 at halftime.

"We need to match up quicker in the man-to-man defense. We seem to be a little sluggish, and we seem comfortable just walking (according to our time) and that's something we need to continue to work on," said Coach Vivian Stringer

The Lady Tigers started the 3rd quarter with a layup from Alexis Hyder. Rutgers didn't hesitate to respond as both Kahleah Copper and Briyona Canty hit three-pointers. Finding plenty of space and open lanes, the Scarlet Knights found room to points on the board, while the Lady Tigers were unorganized and seemed to struggle keeping their man-to-man defense.

The energy from the fans in the RAC brought new life to the Scarlet Knights as Copper and Parker capitalized on multiple opportunities bringing the game to 55-42 as Rutgers found their groove.

Although the fourth quarter deemed a sloppy start, the Scarlet Knights were still able to put points on the board and increase their 59-42 lead. Parker's confident and aggressive style helped the Scarlet Knights secure a 64-48 lead with 5:18 left in the game. As the Lady Tigers grew tired, more mistakes and unnecessary fouls were called, helping Rutgers be more organized and resulting in a second half favorable towards the Scarlet Knights.

However, Rina Hill for the Lady Tigers continued to press hard making a three-pointer in desperate attempt to close the lead making it 66-54. Parker once again did not fail to take advantage after being fouled and giving Rutgers a 69-57 lead.

Ultimately it was LSU's sloppy defense and inability to capitalize on turnovers that caused their demise.

"We just need time. This is a learning experience, and that's what we need; reps and time, I know I'll be much more comfortable when I see that," said Coach Stringer.

Rutgers will return to the RAC Thursday, December 31st, at 1:00 pm, against Minnesota.