VILLANOVA, Pa. (February 18, 2012) – Rutgers senior guard April Sykes (Starkville, Miss.) scored a game-high 20 points as the Scarlet Knights erased a seven-point first-half deficit to defeat Villanova 61-52 on Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Pavilion. With the win, RU snapped a five-game losing streak, improving to 18-8 overall and 7-6 in BIG EAST action.
Sykes also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds, while two others were in double-figure scoring. Junior guard Erica Wheeler (Miami, Fla.) added 16 points and senior guard Khadijah Rushdan (Wilmington, Del.) chipped in 13.
Villanova (15-12, 5-9 BIG EAST) opened the game with seven-straight points (7-0), en route to building its largest lead of the contest. The Wildcats eventually went ahead, 11-5 but the Scarlet Knights responded with a 10-5 run, to tie the game at 16-16 with 6:32 left in the first half.
Sykes scored a layup on an assist from freshman forward Betnijah Laney (Clayton, Del.), putting RU up by two (18-16) as Villanova answered with a layup from Laura Sweeney, knotting the contest at 18-18. It would stand as the final tie of the contest as the Scarlet Knights regained the lead on the following possession – a Wheeler three-pointer – to pull away for good.
Rutgers took a double-digit lead on a Sykes jumper with 14:49 left in the contest but the Wildcats continued to battle back, cutting the deficit down to five points (5:35). Sykes, Wheeler and freshman guard Syessence Davis (Neptune, N.J.) sparked a 6-0 run as RU once again went ahead by double-figures with three minutes remaining in the contest.
The Scarlet Knights will return home to host in-state rival Seton Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
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