PISCATAWAY, N.J. (February 27, 2012) – No. 23/20 Rutgers women’s basketball toppled Marquette 69-58, behind a strong performance from its veterans on senior night at the RAC. Senior forward April Sykes (Starkville, Miss.) paced the Scarlet Knights with 20 points and a season-high five steals, while senior guard Khadijah Rushdan (Wilmington, Del.) stuffed the stat sheet with her sixth-career double-double, 13 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with four assists and four steals.
RU remains a perfect 9-0 all-time against the Golden Eagles (13-16, 4-12 BIG EAST) and solidified the No. 6 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament after winning its final four contests, for a first-round bye.
The Scarlet Knights (21-8, 10-6 BIG EAST) connected on seven of its first nine shots to start the contest, including a set of treys from Sykes and junior guard Erica Wheeler (Miami, Fla.), to open a 16-9 advantage for Rutgers with 14:45 left in the first half. RU extended its lead to 13 (27-14), following four-straight layups for Sykes – who led all scorers with 15 points in the first period on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor.
Despite turning the ball over 10 times in the half, leading to 15 RU points, Marquette clawed its way back within three, 31-28, on a 14-4 run capped off by a pair of free throws from Katie Young with 2:54 left before the break. The teams traded baskets before a Rushdan layup gave the Scarlet Knights a five-point halftime lead, 35-30.
Junior forward Monique Oliver (Las Vegas, Nev.) started the half knocking down 4-of-4 free throws, to go along with a layup, while Sykes added an old-fashioned three-point play to open the game back up to a 14-point differential at the 17:21 mark. The Golden Eagles chipped away at the lead throughout the period but were unable to come closer than 11 points before the Scarlet Knights would respond.
Rutgers held a 42-22 points in the paint advantage on the night and had a plus-15 points off of turnovers margin.
Oliver ended the night with 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, while senior guard Nikki Speed (Pasadena, Calif.) reset her season-high for the second time in the past three games, with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor and six assists.
Marquette was led by freshman guard Arlesia Mores’ 19 points. Sophomore guard Young and sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe also added double-figure points with 14 and 11, respectively. Sophomore point guard Gabi Minix finished with a game-high eight assists and junior forward Sarina Simmons chipped in eight points and eight rebounds.
RU will play the winner of Friday night’s game featuring the No. 14 seed Marquette and the No. 11 seed Cincinnati, on Saturday at 8 p.m., at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
- Solidify No. 6 seed and will play at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, playing the winner of the No. 14 seed and the No. 11 seed that plays at 8 p.m. on Friday night. The Scarlet Knights have finished in sixth place in three of the last four seasons
- Rutgers finishes the season with a 12-3 home record, matching its home win total from a year ago
- RU remains undefeated against Marquette with a 9-0 mark, dating back to the first meeting in 2006
- The Scarlet Knights picked up their 10th BIG EAST victory of the season, marking the second-straight 10-win conference slate that RU has put together. Under Coach C. Vivian Stringer RU has recorded 12 10-conference win campaigns
- Rutgers held a 42-22 points in the paint advantage. RU’s 42 points in the paint was its most since Dec. 8, 2011 against Fordham when it had 46
- Prior to the game Rutgers celebrated senior night with its four graduating seniors playing their final game at the RAC; Jaymee Tucker, Nikki Speed, April Sykes and Khadijah Rushdan. RU used its 11st starting lineup of the season, with all four of its seniors getting the nod on Monday
- With a free throw at the 9:34 mark of the second half, Betnijah Laney (187 points) became the highest scoring true freshman at Rutgers since 2006-07 when Epiphanny Prince score 439 points. Laney’s 117 rebounds this season is also a high for a first-year player since Prince pulled down 147 rebounds
- Khadijah Rushdan played in her 132nd game as a member of the Scarlet Knights, putting her in a tie for third place with Matee Ajavon on RU’s all-time list of career games played
- April Sykes led all scorers with 20 points, her fifth 20-point game of the season and her team-leading sixth of her career. She recorded her fourth double-digit scoring performance in the past five games and the 52nd of her career
- Monique Oliver scored in double-figures for the first time in four games, with 17 points. It marked the 20th time this season and the 43rd of her career. Oliver finished the night with a season-high seven free throws made. With four blocks, Oliver moved into sixth place all-time at RU in blocked shots (137), surpassing Rashidat Junaid (06-10)
- Khadijah Rushdan tallied her first double-double of the season and the sixth of her career, finishing the night with 13 points and 11 boards (matching her career-high)
- Nikki Speed reset her season-high with eight points and six assists on her final game at the RAC, connecting on three-of-five from the floor and a perfect 2-for-2 from the free throw line. It marked the second time in three games that she reset her season-high in points
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