By Richard Kent
It was like a heavyweight fight. It even went beyond 15 rounds.
No. 8 Rutgers,15-2 beat no. 16 Louisville, 14-4 at the Rutgers Athletic Center, 71-68 in overtime in one of the top Big East games of the year.
Rutgers entered the game on a high and Louisville had played poorly in a loss at St. John’s and a narrow win over South Florida.
The Scarlet Knights dominated at the beginning, but the Cards flew by and took a 13 point lead. Rutgers then turned up the defensive pressure and tied the game at 48.
The teams traded baskets and April Sykes missed a shot at the buzzer for Rutgers to send the game into overtime.
Both teams were evenly matched in the last stanza and it took an off balance 3 by Erica Wheeler from Rutgers, just beating the shot clock to seal the deal for the Knights.
Coach Vivian Stringer was thrilled to see her team perform well in a close game after several blow out wins.
Louisville’s Jeff Walz was not unhappy with how his team played,especially emphasizing that they took a team with talent as good as any team in conference into overtime with only 5 points out of top scorer Shoni Schimmel.
Rutgers is about to enter a stretch of games which will define its season, starting with an away contest at St. John’s on Tuesday.It will see them travel to Georgetown and UConn and host DePaul and no. 2 Notre Dame.
By Richard Kent
The Big East is top heavy this year with 3 teams who can make Final Four runs and two teams who are legitimate National Championship contenders (records as of Monday):
NOTRE DAME (15-1)- The Fighting Irish have to be considered the top team in Conference right now after a 74-67 overtime victory over UConn at home. It marked the second consecutive win for them over the Huskies as the Muffet McGraw led team knocked UConn out of the Final Four last year. They are led by one of the three top players in Conference in junior Skylar Diggins. Notre Dame leads the Conference in scoring average at 84.4 ppg. Their only loss was at no. 1 Baylor.
UCONN- (12-2)- The Huskies, when all is said and done in March should be the best team in Conference. They have the best coach in Geno Auriemma and the best player in sophomore Bria Hartley. They fell by 5 at Baylor and lost a road game against a team with whom the are relatively equal. Hartley is a far improved player from her freshman season. Stefanie Dolson, at center is a good one but still needs to work on her conditioning. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is a pure shooter and is the best freshman in the country right now.
RUTGERS- (13-2)-The Scarlet Knights are off to their best start in years and could be undefeated. They lost in double overtime at highly regarded Miami and fell at home to hot shooting Tennessee. April Sykes has established herself as a First Team All Big East player. Vivian Stringer is letting her team run more than in the past, largely as a result of more depth.
DEPAUL- (14-3)-A bit of a surprise for veteran head coach Doug Bruno. The loss of senior Keisha Hampton to injury will hurt, but Anna martin has picked up some of the scoring slack.
GEORGETOWN-(13-3)-It begins and ends with high scoring junior Sugar Rodgers who leads the Conference at 20.1 ppg.The Hoyas had a good win over Georgia in Las Vegas and are a team to be reckoned with.
The 2010-11 Big East season was one of the most exciting in history and produced an unexpected National Champion and some shocking early NCAA losses. Richard Kent’s Big East Confidential,the first book about the season captures the season from start to finish with interesting tidbits and analysis about recruiting,officiating,the Mike Rice hire,the Steve Lavin hire and why Jamie Dixon has problems in March games. The book also has a list of the top 50 Big East players of all-time. It sells for $18.00 on amazon.com, but can be purchased by readers of this site for $12.00,autographed by contacting the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hoops Weiss wrote the Foreword and the book makes a great and inexpensive Father’s Day gift.