|Miami's Shenise Johnson, left, drives past Rutgers' Monique Oliver, right, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game, Monday Dec. 5, 2011 in Coral Gables, Fl. (AP Photo, David Adame)|
No. 11 Rutgers falls to No. 9 Miami women, 92-81
CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said she wasn't aware that Miami hadn't lost at home in nearly two years.
Hearing that stat made her already-grim postgame mood considerably worse.
Up by 16 with 17 minutes left in regulation, the 11th-ranked Scarlet Knights had the Hurricanes on the ropes -- then let them have the last laugh in a double-overtime thriller that looked more suited for March than early December.
Riquna Williams scored a career-high 36 points, Shenise Johnson added 25 points and 12 rebounds and No. 9 Miami knocked Rutgers from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 92-81 win Monday night.
It was Miami's 28th straight victory in its own building.
"It doesn't matter to me if they haven't lost here in 50 years," Stringer said. "All I want to know is here and now. Could we, did we and could we have taken advantage of this? That's all I know. When you get that kind of lead, what we're looking for within our team is that killer instinct."
And it wasn't there.
Down 40-24 early in the second half, Miami (7-1) pulled off a most improbable rally against one of the nation's top defensive clubs.
"You've got to be really cocky and have some really confident kids to think that you're coming back from that one," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "You really do. Especially when you look over on the other bench and it's Rutgers, one of the best defensive teams in the history of women's basketball."
A clash of styles -- Miami's offense vs. Rutgers' defense -- was all Scarlet Knights (8-1) for the first 23 minutes. Miami outscored Rutgers 68-41 the rest of the way.
"I don't think we played scared at all," Stringer said. "I don't think we played very smart."
The Scarlet Knights got a layup from Erica Wheeler with 1.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and another game-tying shot from Betnijah Laney just before the buzzer and sending it to send it to a second OT.
But Williams took over for Miami in the second OT, hitting a pair of 3-pointers to get the Hurricanes going, and they survived. It was the first time Rutgers allowed 90 points since Jan. 2, 2003, and given the way the game was going, no one would have figured that was happening Monday night.
"Awesome game," Johnson said. "My heart rate is still pumping. Credit goes to Rutgers. It was just a fun, fun game."
April Sykes scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Rutgers, Erica Wheeler scored 13 and Khadijah Rushdan added 10.
Miami trailed for all but 2:35 of regulation, and still had plenty of chances to win before the overtimes. Johnson went 2 for 4 from the foul line in the final 38 seconds of regulation, so the Hurricanes' lead was never larger than two -- giving Rutgers life.
The Scarlet Knights took advantage. Taking possession with 10.7 seconds left in regulation, Rutgers got the ball down low to Oliver. She missed a layup, but Wheeler was there for the putback with 1.5 seconds to play in regulation, tying the game at 63.
"We made a couple mistakes down the stretch," Wheeler said. "But it's a learning experience. We definitely are getting better from this situation."
Down by four late in the first OT, Rutgers rallied -- Sykes' 3 with a half-minute to play got the Scarlet Knights to 73-72, and when Laney knotted it, the Rutgers bench leaped for joy.
It was the Scarlet Knights' final celebration of the night.
"We've got to learn how to not take any prisoners," Stringer said. "We've got to learn how to consider every possession that important, not to slow it down, continue to attack, play our game. This is all the learning process. Hopefully we'll hold each other accountable and hold each other responsible, because not one person ... are exempt. We've got to accept responsibility."
Rutgers came into the game having allowed only 70 points once -- in the season opener -- and on a six-game streak of not allowing any more than 52 points. Opponents were shooting 31 percent and committing more than 20 turnovers a game against the Scarlet Knights through eight games, so the Hurricanes knew exactly what to expect.
So predictably, Rutgers' man-to-man gave Miami fits.
But the Hurricanes did little to help their own cause, missing at least nine shots near the rim in a 9-minute span of the first half alone, falling behind 31-22 going into the locker room -- after the Scarlet Knights held them to 27 percent shooting. And when Rutgers started the second half on a 9-2 run, capped by a jumper from Sykes, Miami was in big trouble.
With that, Meier called timeout, and something clicked, just in time. "Gutsy," Meier said. "How are you gutsy when you're down 16? ... They were missing free throws they never miss, missing layups they never miss, and somehow still had the confidence. That's beyond me. That's them."