Rutgers women use strong second half to beat IonaBy DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer Sunday, Dec 18, 2011
April Sykes scored 18 points and No. 11 Rutgers held Iona to just two baskets in the second half of a 62-29 win on Sunday.
“They’re tired and just came off a big game with Tennessee,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “I hope we wouldn’t succumb the way a vast majority of mortals do. The vast majority of players and people play to the level of competition.”
Rutgers (10-2) let a 23-15 halftime lead dwindle to four, missing 11 of its first 12 shots to start the second half. But then the freshmen took over. Betnijah Laney started the game-changing run, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner with 11:21 left. Then classmates Shakena Richardson and Syessence Davis pitched in as Rutgers closed the game with a 36-7 surge. Richardson had nine points during the spurt and Davis added five. Laney’s three-point play made it 52-29 with 4:59 left.
“It’s great to have them step up,” Sykes said of the freshmen. “They have energy. It’s great to see them grasping things on the offensive and defensive side. It showed in the last 10 minutes of the game.”
Iona’s only basket during the spurt was a 3-pointer by Kristina Ford with 8:08 remaining, ending a 9 1/2 -minute drought without a field goal. The Gaels would only make two free throws the rest of the game.
“I was proud of the girls as with 8 minutes to go it was 37-27,” Iona coach Anthony Bozzella said. “Their athleticism and strength wore us down.”
Ford scored 11 points for Iona (4-6), which shot 17 percent from the field, including just 10 percent (2 for 21) in the second half.
“We’re going to be a team that plays all types of things on defense,” Stringer said. “Christmas holiday will afford us a chance to get better defensively and offensively for sure.”
Iona has been on the road for the entire month of December, playing five games away from home. The Gaels have now dropped the first four, with a trip to Colgate left on Dec. 29. This was only the Gaels’ second time facing Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights beat Iona 90-54 in 1977.
“I’ve watched them every year, this is one of the better teams she’s had in a long time,” Bozzella said. “We play the toughest non-league schedule in our conference. We gained more today than a 20-point win against a team that’s not our level.”
Rutgers scored the game’s first seven points, then played an uninspired rest of the first half. Iona closed to 10-9 midway through the period, but the Scarlet Knights scored seven straight, including a 3-pointer by Nikki Speed to get the lead back up to eight.
Rutgers carried an eight-point into the break as Sykes had 10 points. The Scarlet Knights shot just 25 percent from the field (7 for 28), but held Iona to only 24 percent (5 for 21).