Instant Heavyweight Classic

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - This one was worth the price of admission. And I got to see it for free. Jealous? You should be, this was one instant classic of a game.

Like a heavyweight battle, Rutgers and Maryland went blow for blow for 40 minutes, and the final was a lot closer than the 68-60 score indicated. But in the end, Rutgers hit hardest and pulled out the win on their home court in front of 4,181 fans who were behind them from start to finish.

This game was all about styles of play. Maryland likes to force its opponents to run, while Rutgers slows you down and forces you to take bad shots. The game featured moments where each team was able to enforce its will. But ultimately it was Maryland who missed one too many shots.

Maryland creates a unique matchup for any team. With a 6-foot-4 Laura Harper to compliment Crystal Langhorne, no team can match the Terps' inside size. But Harper and Langhorne were nowhere to be found in the second half, finishing with a combined 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Even the Terps' star of the early season, Kristi Toliver, had a terrible game. The junior finished 4-for-15 from the field, 3-for-12 from long range and turned the ball over five times. But that's what Rutgers' defense will make a good shooter do.

Maryland shot almost 62 percent in the first half to grab a 33-23 lead. Rutgers went into half knowing they had to make some changes, and change they did, forcing the Terps to shoot an awful 21.7 percent in the second half and completely taking them out of their rhythem.

"We started playing transition defense, that was one thing we were lacking in the first half," said Rutgers senior Essence Carson, who finished with 15 points. "They were getting open breaks because we weren’t locating their shooters fast enough. They were smart, but we got it together, we talked about it and we decided that we were going to play some defense."

And boy did they ever play some defense. They rebounded as well. In all, they just outmuscled the bigger and stronger Terps up and down the court in the second half.

"All the credit goes to Rutgers," said a pregnant Maryland coach Brenda Frese. "They had a tremendous gameplan and we played right into their hands. We knew it would be a tough environment, the crowd did a tremendous job, but we were disappointed with our second-half play.

"We came out and played a really solid first 20 minutes, but the second half, they're toughness factor, they did a tremendous job taking us out of the things we wanted to run offensively and they started making big shots themselves."

No one hit bigger shots than sophomore guard Epiphanny Prince, who had a game-high 22 points, scoring 15 in the second half alone. Prince also dished out 10 assists and grabbed seven rebounds, and hit the big shots at the end with the game on the line.

With nine minutes to play, and Rutgers down five, 45-40, Prince nailed a three, followed that immediately with another three and Rutgers had their first lead of the second half, 46-45. Later, with the score 49-48 Rutgers, Prince went at it again, this time hitting three shots in a row, two coming in the lane in traffic after grabbing big offensive rebounds, and Rutgers extended its lead for good.

All Maryland could do was hoist up threes to no avail. Rutgers pulled off the upset with its amazing defensive tenacity and its never-give-up attitude.

This was a big difference then this point in the season last year, when the Knights lost by 40 to Duke in the Jimmy V Classic. Of course, the Knights were playing this one at home.

"Our fans are great," said coach C. Vivian Stringer after the game. "They were there and we needed that. The nation got a chance to see it and they know that this Rutgers crowd is legitimate.

"This nation has some really fine basketball teams. This should help us confidence wise. It should help us position wise. We need to show we can step up and play inspite of the competition. But it's nice to see that we stepped up today. It was real nice to see that."

Player of the Game:
Epiphanny Prince, G, Rutgers:
Prince proved she is the most talented player on the Scarlet Knights roster by taking over late in this game. The sophomore scored 22 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed seven boards and Rutgers needed every bit of that production.

Turning Point of the Game:
Halftime. It was like one Maryland team went into halftime, up by 10, and a decidedly different Maryland team came out, the one that shot just 21 percent and couldn't buy a bucket or get inside position late in the game.

Whatever coach Stringer - who was very calm if you ask Essence Carson - said at halftime really gave the Knights a jolt, as they picked up their intensity and did all the right things when the second half began.

Quote of the Game:
Prince, on the crowd noise and how it pumped up the Rutgers team:
"As we started going through our run, they were getting hyped, with the way they were loud and we saw the Maryland kids' eyes started bugging, so we just tried to keep going with it."

Up Next:
Rutgers moves to 5-1 with the big win over a Top 5 team and will next meet another Top 15 team in Duke on the road in Durham on Dec. 6. It never gets any easier for the Knights, who scheduled one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

Maryland drops to 10-1 on the season, good news if you ask coach Brenda Frese, who thinks the Terps will learn from this contest.

"I know we'll rebound, we have too much character in our lockerroom not to," Frese said of Maryland inability to rebound in the second half - the Terps held a 16-12 first-half advantage but ultimately tied the Knights at 34 apiece. "Just a great game for us to be able to play early on. It’ll be 14 games in 31 days and I’ve been so proud to see the toughness that we’ve displayed."

The Terps next take on Middle Tennessee State, a tournament team from last season, on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

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