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Khadijah Rushdan, No. 11 Rutgers knock off Fordham

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Khadijah Rushdan and April Sykes weren't about to let Rutgers dwell on its first loss of the season.

The senior leaders helped the 11th-ranked Scarlet Knights rebound with a 68-48 victory over Fordham on Thursday night.

Rutgers lost to No. 9 Miami on Monday night in double overtime. The Scarlet Knights host Tennessee (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) on Tuesday night.

"Everything has to do with maturity as seniors," Sykes said. "We have freshmen who don't know what it's like to lose. We (seniors) got our first loss in our first game. We got Tennessee coming in here and we knew we can't overlook (Fordham). We've done it before and we understand as upperclassmen we've got to stop it right now."

Rushdan scored 16 points and Monique Oliver added 14 to lead Rutgers (9-1).

"Although we lost at Miami, credit to April, we were able to come back and practice strong and move on," Rushdan said. "We sat down and talked about the wrongs that happened in the game -- the turnovers, the blockouts, the free throws. We have grown from that I believe."

Rutgers got off to a sluggish start before taking control with a 25-7 burst. Rushdan and Oliver each had six points during the run.

Trailing 10-6 early in the game, Rutgers quickly took command. Rushdan got the spurt started with two free throws, and then three straight baskets off the press by Briyona Canty, Oliver and Betnijah Laney got the Scarlet Knights going.

After a 3-pointer by Becky Peters brought Fordham within 18-15, Sykes scored five of Rutgers' next seven points. Rushdan capped the burst with back-to-back jumpers that made it 31-17 with 2:35 left in the half.

Rutgers wouldn't let Fordham back in the game, coming out of halftime with a renewed energy. By the time Christina Gaskin hit a 3-pointer from the wing 3½ minutes into the second half for the Rams, they found themselves down 46-28.

The Scarlet Knights pushed the advantage to 24 on Laney's layup, and the rout was on. Rutgers' talented freshman class closed out the game, playing the final 8 minutes.

"We executed a little bit better than we did in the first half and that was where it came from," Rushdan said.

Peters had 12 points and Abigail Corning added 10 for Fordham (5-4), which is off to its best start in nine years under first-year coach Stephanie Gaitley.

"I'm really excited where we're at," Gaitley said. "Our team has overachieved and it's a credit to the team's commitment to defense."

It had been 21 years since these teams last played, with Rutgers coming away with a 77-69 victory in 1990.

"We put it on the schedule, being from Jersey, we had one or two games left to schedule," Gaitley said. "We opened up at Maryland last year and got destroyed, but it helped us in the NIT against Syracuse. These games do nothing but help you."