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Turnovers a major problem for Rutgers women’s basketball

The Scarlet Knights were unable to hold a fourth quarter lead against bottom tier Wisconsin to remain winless in Big Ten play.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 16 Womens - Wisconsin at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Rutgers women’s basketball team held a 37-30 lead over Wisconsin heading into the fourth quarter at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the Badgers exploded for 19 points in the final frame as RU continued to struggle offensively. It resulted in a 49-45 loss that was a missed opportunity to earn the program’s first Big Ten win of the season.

Turnovers remain a major issue as the Scarlet Knights committed 15 in the second half and 25 overall in the game. It was the difference in the outcome, as Wisconsin held a 21-13 advantage in points off of turnovers. Rutgers shot a respectable 47.5% from the floor in the game, but had eight less shot attempts than the visitors due to the takeaways. They did struggle from behind the arc (2 of 9 for 22.2%) and the foul line (5 of 10 for 50%).

At 7-12 this season and 0-7 in Big Ten play, Rutgers is now 0-11 against high major opponents. They have lost four conference games by five points or less after the defeat to Wisconsin. In those four losses, the Scarlet Knights have committed 82 turnovers, have a -26 turnover margin and have been outscored off of turnovers by a margin of 79-44.

Defensively, RU is 46th nationally in scoring defense with opponents averaging just 57.1 points per game. Despite averaging 9.8 steals per game (67th nationally) and opponents averaging 16.9 turnovers per game (162nd nationally), Rutgers has a poor turnover margin of -2.3 (292nd nationally).

On the season, RU is averaging 19.4 turnovers per game, which is 304th nationally. A lack of offensive cohesion remains a problem. The shortened offseason due to Covid and newcomers arriving midway through have made it a predictable issue due to a lack of continuity. It’s also fair to wonder if the substitution patterns and deep rotation utilized by acting head coach Tim Eatman have contributed to this issue. He has begun to shortened the rotation some of late, but turnovers continue to be committed at an alarming rate.

Osh Brown remains a reliable presence inside, as she posted her 6th double-double of the season against the Badgers and is the NCAA active leader with 55 in her career. While Brown does lead the team with 2.8 turnovers per game, she is also leading RU with 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Rutgers held a 33-19 advantage on the glass against Wisconsin and own a +7.0 rebounding margin for the season. They have outrebounded opponents in 16 of 19 games. However, the inability to take care of the basketball has negated this advantage.

With solid defense and rebounding being neutralized by their offensive mistakes, which include shooting just 27.2% from three-point range and 65.1% from the foul line in addition to the turnovers, the Scarlet Knights have struggled mightily all season. With eight newcomers including six transfers added to the roster after losing last season’s top five scorers, along with the prolonged absence of head coach C. Vivian Stringer, its been a very difficult situation for this team to be successful in. Even so, self-inflicted wounds on the offensive end has sunk any postseason hopes for Rutgers.

Rematches at home against Purdue (11-6; 2-4) and Penn State (8-7; 2-3), who they lost to by a combined six points, as well as a road game at Minnesota (9-9; 2-4) and the regular season finale at Illinois (6-9; 1-3) pose the best opportunities for RU to earn Big Ten victories in the coming weeks.

The lack of stability caused by Stringer’s absence and the significant roster turnover has this team likely headed to its worst record in Big Ten play since joining the league eight seasons ago. There is no faulting Stringer in doing what’s best for her and her family, but there is no question her extended absence since last April has hung over the program. Regardless of how the season ends for Rutgers women’s basketball, it’s clear that a full evaluation of the program as a whole and a resolution to the questions regarding Stringer’s future are a necessity.