Both Rutgers and MSU are now 4-2 overall on the young campaign.
On Friday, a 13-2 run midway through the first half, erased MSU's last lead (at 7-6). The Lady Bulldogs converted only 18 percent of their shots in the opening half and despite slight improvement from the floor could not close the gap significantly in the final 20 minutes.
Rutgers parlayed the early spurt into a 30-20 halftime advantage. After a 3-point play by Mary Kathryn Govero, the teams battled virtually even for the next six minutes. A layup by Chanel Mokango brought MSU within 42-32 with 14:34 left in regulation. A 9-0 run then gave the Scarlet Knights their largest lead of the game, at 51-32 with 8:59 remaining.
The Lady Bulldogs turned up the defensive pressure for their final stand of the game. A pair of free throws by Armelie Lumanu capped a 14-2 run. After the spree, the Lady Bulldogs trailed 53-46 with 3:15 remaining.
Unfortunately, MSU could get no closer the remainder of the way.
For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 20 of 69 shots from the field (29.0 percent), 5 of 22 shots from 3-point range (22.7 percent) and 9 of 11 shots from the foul line (81.8 percent). The Scarlet Knights hit 21 of 46 shots from the field (45.7 percent), 4 of 11 shots from 3-point range (36.4 percent) and 16 of 22 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent).
Alexis Rack paced the MSU offensive effort with 17 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field. Armelie Lumanu was also in double figures with 12 points. Chanel Mokango pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
For Rutgers, Brittany Ray led all scorers with 27 points. Former East Oktibbeha High School standout April Sykes added 12 points for the Scarlet Knights. Rashidat Junaid and Monique Oliver each had a team-high nine rebounds.
MSU had nine assists and 13 turnovers. Rutgers had eight assists and 20 turnovers. Defensively, the Lady Bulldogs have now forced 20 or more turnovers in their first six contests of the season.
The Lady Bulldogs close tournament play with a 4:45 p.m. CT start Saturday against Southern California. The MSU-USC game will be available in an internet-only broadcast free of charge on Maroon to the Max at mstateathletics.com and also through live video stream at Fox College Sports Broadband (for $8).
MSU returns home to host in-state rival Southern Mississippi at 7 p.m. Wednesday.