No. 8 Rutgers rebounds to get past S. Florida
TAMPA, Fla. -- Rutgers rebounded from a tough loss with an effort worthy of a top-10 team.
April Sykes had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Khadijah Rushdan scored 16 points and Rutgers (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) beat South Florida 72-66 on Saturday night.
Monique Oliver finished with 14 points for the Scarlet Knights (16-3, 5-1 Big East), who had a six-game winning streak snapped Tuesday in a 62-57 loss to St. John's.
"They were inspired," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said.
South Florida (11-9, 3-3) got 15 points from Inga Orekhova.
The Bulls were coming off a 66-63 overtime win against DePaul (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) on Tuesday. South Florida completed a stretch of playing four of five games against Top 25 teams -- before beating DePaul, the Bulls lost to ranked Georgetown and Louisville and beat unranked Seton Hall.
"They're No. 7 in the country for a reason," South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. "I was proud of how our kids fought, but I told our kids at the end of the year, there's not an asterisk saying we played Georgetown tough, they played Louisville tough, should have won against the No. 7 team in the country. It comes down to wins and losses. We've got to start closing out some of these Top 25 games."
Rutgers' lead slipped to 70-64 in the final minute, but the Scarlet Knights made two late free throws to secure the conference road win.
"Hopefully, they remember what that's like," Stringer said.
Oliver's three-point play made it 62-49 with 5 minutes left.
Orekhova scored five consecutive points to get South Florida within 49-44 at the 10-minute mark of the second half.
Oliver scored two of her nine first-half points on a layup with a second remaining to put Rutgers up 29-27. The Scarlet Knights outrebounded South Florida 18-9 during the opening half, and 36-26 overall.
Rutgers, which trailed by eight early on, went ahead 15-13 on Rushdan's three-point play with 9:48 left in the first half.
Orekhova hit a pair of 3s, helping South Florida go up 11-3 just 5 minutes into the game.
Sykes made a layup and hit a jumper to get Rutgers within 13-12 midway through the first half.
South Florida also got 12 points from Jasmine Wynne, and 11 from both Tiffany Connor and Kaneisha Saunders.
"Let me say this, Jose does a great job with his team," Stringer said. "It's always, for whatever reason, we're going at it."
In the loss at St. John's, Rutgers turned the ball over 21 times, committed 25 fouls and was outscored 26-7 from the free throw line.
Both teams scored 14 points on free throws Saturday. Rutgers had 19 turnovers, while the Bulls made 13.
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