Offensive struggles lead to No. 17 Rutgers' 55-45 loss to No. 11 Tennessee



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PISCATAWAY, New Jersey — C. Vivian Stringer was extremely disappointed after Rutgers fell once again to Tennessee.

Despite holding the Lady Vols to just 28 percent shooting, the Scarlet Knights weren't able to beat the Lady Vols for the 10th straight meeting.

"We could of, we should of and we didn't. Simple as that," Stringer said after the 55-45 loss on Sunday to the nation's 11th-ranked team.

Rutgers (8-2) also may have lost senior Betnijah Laney to a thumb injury. Her thumb got kicked early in the game and then it was sat on by a Tennessee player.

"We don't know exactly yet," said Laney, who had just four points and five rebounds. "I'm going to the doctors."

It was so bad that in the second half, Laney had to have a teammate tie her shoe. This was the Scarlet Knights' second loss to a top team in the past 10 days. They fell to then-No. 6 North Carolina in double overtime on Dec. 4.

"This one hurt more," Stringer said. "These guys weren't shooting it. ... This one isn't sitting well for me."

Trailing 43-39 with 7:14 left, Tennessee (7-2) scored the next 10 points to take control of the game. Harrison had the first four points during the spurt on free throws. Laney's layup with 1:31 left broke a 5:45 scoreless drought for the Scarlet Knights (8-2) and made it 49-45.

After forcing a shot-clock violation with 57 seconds left, Laney turned it over on the drive and Cierra Burdick had a basket with 30 seconds left to seal the win.

Tyler Scaife scored 22 to lead the Scarlet Knights. She had little help as no other Rutgers player reached double figures.

It wasn't an offense showcase by any stretch. Neither team could put the ball in the basket. Tennessee shot 28 from the field while Rutgers wasn't much better at 31 percent.

The Scarlet Knights were also outrebounded 54-42, including 20-10 on the offensive boards.

"When you take a Rutgers team, which is one of best rebounding teams in country, and hold them to 10 offensive rebounds, I'm ecstatic," said Tennessee coach Holly Warlick.

Rutgers led 14-8 with 8:40 left in the half before going into a scoring drought. Tennessee then scored 10 of the next 12 to take an 18-16 lead on Graves' free throw with 3:35 left. The Scarlet Knights then closed the half scoring seven of the final nine points to go up 23-20 going into the break.

The two teams combined to shoot 16 for 69 (23 percent) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.

The teams traded the lead for most of the second half until Rutgers took a 39-35 lead on Syessence Davis' 3-pointer with 9 minutes left. The Scarlet Knights led 43-39 before the Lady Vols rallied.

TIP-INS

Tennessee: The Lady Vols are 20-3 against the Scarlet Knights. Isabelle Harrison made her return to the starting lineup and scored 11 points and had 13 rebounds. Harrison sprained her right knee in the opener against Penn. She missed five games before coming off the bench in the last two.

Rutgers: Laney was honored before the game for scoring her 1,000th career point against North Carolina on Thursday, Dec. 4. ... Rutgers hasn't beaten one of the top 11 teams in the country since defeating then-No. 11 Georgetown on Dec. 16, 2010.

UP NEXT

Tennessee hosts Wichita State on Tuesday.

Rutgers visits Iona on Saturday.

INTERNING

TV personality Robin Roberts took in the game to watch Tennessee guard Burdick, who spent the summer working as an intern for "Good Morning America." The two chatted after the game outside the Lady Vols' locker room.

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