PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Despite a great effort from Lehigh, it was not enough as the Mountain Hawks (1-4) fell 68-40 to No.13/13 Rutgers (4-0) Tuesday night. Senior Aly Byorick had a team-high 11 points after she caught fire in the first half with three three-pointers. Lehigh trailed by just one more than half way through the opening half thanks to some hot shooting from behind the arc, but Rutgers pulled away in the second half.
Women's Basketball at Rutgers
"I was proud of how we competed, especially in the first half," said head coach Sue Troyan. "We did a good job of handling their pressure and limiting turnovers and that helped us stay in the game. If we compete at that level against the rest of our schedule, we will be in every basketball game so I think we learned a lot about ourselves and about how hard we have to play and compete every game."
Rutgers got out to a quick 11-2 edge to start the game, but then junior Kelly Peterson hit back-to-back threes in a span of 30 seconds to cut the deficit to 11-8 which forced Rutgers to call a timeout four minutes into the game.
The Scarlet Knights then went on a brief 4-0 run but Lehigh’s defense held tough forcing Rutgers to take a lot of outside jumpshots. Byorick then hit a three off an inbounds play to cut the deficit to 15-11 with 11:09 to go.
Byorick then got hot hitting two more threes as Lehigh trailed by just one, 18-17 with 8:33 to go as again Lehigh forced Rutgers to call another timeout.
Rutgers responded though with an 8-0 run, but junior Sarah Pearce stopped the run with a three as Lehigh trailed 26-20 with 3:15 to go. The Scarlet Knights went on a 6-1 run to end the half and Lehigh went without a basket for the final 3:22 as the Mountain Hawks trailed 32-21 at the break.
Byorick led all scorers with nine as all six of the Mountain Hawks’ field goals came from three-pointers as Lehigh was 6-for-18 from behind the arc and 0-for-11 from inside of it.
Lehigh did a great job in the opening 20 minutes of handling Rutgers’ pressure as the Mountain Hawks had just five turnovers. The difference in the early going was the Scarlet Knights’ inside game as Rutgers scored 22 of its 32 points from in the paint.
Senior Alexa Williams came out strong out of the break with five points including a layup for Lehigh’s first two-point field goal of the game as the Mountain Hawks trailed 38-26 with 16:38 to go. Then neither team went without a field goal for two minutes until Rutgers hit a pair of baskets off Lehigh turnovers en route to a Scarlet Knights 11-0 run as the Mountain Hawks were held without a field goal for a little over five minutes before Peterson hit a jumper off a fast break as Lehigh trailed 47-28 with 12:46 to go.
As Rutgers picked up its aggression on defense, Lehigh took advantage as it was in the bonus for the game’s final 10 minutes. The Mountain Hawks went 10-for-13 from the charity stripe in the second half.
It wasn’t enough however as Lehigh struggled from the field in the second half. The Mountain Hawks went just under eight minutes without a field goal and trailed 61-35 with five minutes to go and soon trailed by a game-high 29.
Lehigh managed just 12 shots in the second half, finishing the game going 10-for-41 from the field and 7-for 24 from behind the arc while Rutgers shot 51 percent (30-for-59) and was just 1-for-8 from three. The Mountain Hawks outscored Rutgers from the free-throw line as Lehigh was 13-for-19 while Rutgers was 7-for-12 but the Scarlet Knights held a commanding 44-4 edge in points in the paint.
The Mountain Hawks had 17 turnovers in the second half and just one assist as the Scarlet Knights’ full-court press intensified.
Of Lehigh’s four field goals in the second half, two came from Williams who picked up her offensive prowess in the half, scoring all eight of her points in the final 20 minutes. Williams added seven rebounds and a season-high three blocks while Peterson finished with eight points.
Khadijah Rushdan had a game-high 16 points to pace Rutgers as she led a trio of Scarlet Knights in double figures.
Rutgers – ranked No. 13 in the AP Top 25 and No. 13 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll - is one of just four undefeated BIG EAST teams.
Lehigh falls to 0-2 against Rutgers as the first meeting came on December 11th, 1976 as Lehigh fell 80-58. The Mountain Hawks are also now 4-17 against BIG EAST opponents.
Tuesday’s game marked Lehigh’s fourth in as many years against a nationally-ranked opponent. Lehigh faced No. 1 UConn last season, No. 20/22 Vanderbilt the year before and No. 8 Auburn in 2009. Lehigh also faced No. 18 North Carolina in the 2001-02 season and No. 1 UConn in the 1996-97 season as the Mountain Hawks are now 0-6 against nationally-ranked opponents.
The game against Auburn was played at the Louis Brown Athletic Center – Rutgers’ home floor – in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament where Lehigh was the No. 15 seed.
Lehigh will return to the court to take on Monmouth Friday at 6 p.m. in a game that will be played in Easton, Pa. as part of the Thanksgiving Challenge.