No. 8 Rutgers 71, No. 16 Louisville 68

Rutgers has been looking for a signature win all season and now

the Scarlet Knights finally have one.

Erica Wheeler scored a career-high 23 points, including an

off-balance 3-pointer with the shot clock running out in overtime,

and No. 8 Rutgers rallied to beat 16th-ranked Louisville 71-68 on

Saturday.

Rutgers has won six straight games and is off to its best start

since 2007-08 when it won 17 of its first 19 games. It was the

Scarlet Knights’ first victory over a ranked opponent this

season.

With her young team, coach C. Vivian Stringer has scheduled a

little lighter this year. The Scarlet Knights had played just two

games against Top 25 teams coming into the day, losing in double

overtime at Miami and dropping a six-point game against

Tennessee.

”It’s extremely important,” senior Khadijah Rushdan said of

beating a ranked team. ”Not to say anything against our previous

opponents, but we haven’t played anyone to the caliber of

Tennessee, Miami, or Louisville. It’s an important growing process

for us. We can’t only show up for the big games. We need to

approach every game like this.”

Trailing 68-67, Wheeler rebounded Rushdan’s miss and dribbled

out to the 3-point line. She barely recognized the shot clock was

down to its last tick before turning around and connecting with

1:12 left in the extra period.

”First thing I did when I caught the ball was saw the clock and

saw there were 3 seconds,” Wheeler said.

Rushdan knew it was a big play.

”I said thank you to her,” Rushdan said laughing. ”It was so

ugly, but it went in. I’m grateful she made that shot.”

The Scarlet Knights (15-2, 4-0 Big East) forced a shot clock

violation on the other end. After Monique Oliver’s lay-in rolled

off the rim with 13 seconds left, Louisville had one last chance to

tie it, but Bria Smith’s drive came up short and Rushdan sealed the

win with a free throw with 1.2 seconds left.

”One of the coaches was saying they hadn’t seen that kind of

fight in us for a while,” Stringer said. ”It’s good to see us

grind that one out and we’ll be more confident because of this

situation.”

Freshman Shawnta’ Dyer led the Cardinals (14-4, 3-2) with a

season-high 16 points. Dyer, Cierra Warren and Sheronne Vails

combined for 40 points, going 18 for 27 from the field.

”We got a great game out of all our posts,” Louisville coach

Jeff Walz said. ”I know they can do that and that’s encouraging to

me. They are learning that college basketball isn’t easy and you

got to work at it. Now some of them are starting to realize that.

They showed they can do this. I’m going to expect it.”

April Sykes scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half for

the Scarlet Knights, who trailed 41-28 early in the period.

Sykes, Wheeler and Rushdan fueled the Scarlet Knights’ rally.

After going a combined 4 for 19 in the first half, the trio scored

all 20 points during a run that tied it at 48 with 7:35 left.

”We’re up 13 and I know the game wasn’t anywhere close to being

over,” Walz said. ”We were letting them take open shots, they

went on a run and made some shots. We were right there going back

and forth at the end.”

The teams traded baskets until Sykes’ 3-pointer put Rutgers

ahead 58-56 with 3:02 left in regulation. Smith made two free

throws to tie it, but Oliver hit one of two from the line to give

Rutgers the lead with 1:36 left.

Smith was fouled a minute later and connected on both her free

throws to give Louisville a 60-59 lead. Wheeler was fouled on the

ensuing possession and made one of two. Shoni Schimmel got the

rebound, but threw the ball out of bounds on the other end, giving

Rutgers one last chance.

Sykes missed a 15-footer and Wheeler the follow, sending the

game to overtime.

With the game tied at 23 with 3 minutes left in the first half,

Louisville scored the final nine points before the break. Cierra

Warren had the first two baskets then Becky Burke followed with a

3-pointer. Shelby Harper converted two free throws with two-tenths

of a second left.

Rutgers’ only bright spot on offense in the first half was

Oliver. She had 10 points at intermission, making five of her eight

shots.

The Cardinals continued their run to start the second half,

scoring nine of the first 11 points to open a 41-28 lead when Burke

hit all three free throws after she was fouled on a 3-point

attempt.