Kayla Alexander and Elashier Hall converted three-point plays to key a decisive second-half spurt, and No. 21 Syracuse beat Rutgers 58-45 on Tuesday night, denying Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer her 900th victory.
Stringer, a Hall of Famer in her 42nd season as a head coach, is seeking to become just the fourth women's coach to reach 900 wins along with Pat Summitt, Jody Conradt and Sylvia Hatchell, who reached the mark on Feb. 7. Only three Division I men's coaches have reached 900 victories — Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, who reached the milestone in December in the Carrier Dome.
The Scarlet Knights have lost three straight since since Stringer earned her 899th career victory against Cincinnati. They lost 60-57 at DePaul when Brittany Hrynko hit a 3-pointer with 10.2 seconds to break a tie, then played a spirited first half against No. 3 Connecticut on Saturday before suffering a 65-45 setback.
Stringer's next chance will come Saturday afternoon at St. John's.
Syracuse (22-3, 10-2 Big East), which has its best record in program history through 25 games, broke a three-game losing streak against Rutgers (14-11, 5-7) and upped its home record to 12-0.
Alexander, who has nine double-doubles and 28 for her career, the most of any active Big East player, got in early foul trouble and finished with seven points and eight rebounds. Rachel Coffey led the Orange with 17 points.
Monique Oliver led the Scarlet Knights with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
La'Shay Taft curled around a screen at the top of the arc and hit a 3-pointer to put the Orange up 27-25 with 12:36 left. After Betnijah Laney tied it for Rutgers at 27-all with a free throw, the Orange, who trailed by four at the break, reeled off 11 straight points to take the biggest lead of the game as Alexander and Hall keyed the surge.
Six straight points from Oliver kept the Scarlet Knights close and a hook by Christa Evans moved them within 42-35 with 5:20 to play.
Off-target for most of the game from long range, Syracuse put the game away when Brianna Butler hit a 3 from the left corner and Coffey followed with two more 3-pointers to give the Orange a 53-40 lead with 2:55 to go.
Stringer likes to play a slowdown game, and it couldn't have been any slower in the opening half. The teams combined for 24 turnovers, missed 49 of 63 shots attempted, netted only six points off 24 offensive rebounds as neither team led by more than four points.
Syracuse started poorly, committing three turnovers on its first four possessions, and finished the half 1 of 12 from behind the arc. The Orange consistently went for the long ball after the 6-foot-4 Alexander picked up her second foul in the first 5 minutes of play and was relegated to the bench. Rutgers led 19-15 at halftime behind 12 points from the 6-2 Oliver, eight coming with Alexander watching after not even attempting a shot.
Rutgers is in danger of seeing its 10-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances end. The Scarlet Knights, with nine underclassmen on the roster, are having a rare down year, and Stringer's $1 million salary has come under scrutiny. She has one more year on her contract after this season.