Rutgers eases past lower-division foe
Heading into yesterday's game against Kean, Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer said her team could not afford to disrespect its opponent and take a day off from competition.
The Scarlet Knights easily outmatched the visiting Cougars 85-49 behind 20 points from senior guard Brittany Ray, as they continued to adjust to their new lineup, with sophomores Chelsey Lee and April Sykes helping to lead the way.
"Before the game, [sophomore guard Khadijah Rushdan] mentioned ‘I hate it when we play down to the level of our competition,'" Ray said. "We tried to use that as motivation going into this game."
Another strong post performance from Lee bolstered the Knights. Lee dominated the Cougars down low, finishing with six rebounds, three blocks and a steal.
Combine those totals with her five rebound and one block performance against Stanford Sunday, Lee is already helping replace the production of departed center Kia Vaughn.
"Chelsey Lee, believe it or not, she hits the floor and she is one of our best rebounders," Stringer said. "But you also have to realize she gets those rebounds in the first 11 minutes of the game. … That means to me, she wasn't as aggressive going to get the boards [in the second half]."
After playing only four minutes in the first half, Sykes did not record her first points of the game until the beginning of the second, when she knocked down a mid-range jumper. The forward proceeded to explode late in the game, finishing with 12 points — all scored in the second half.
After going 0-for-5 in three-point field goals in the Knights' first game against Stanford, Sykes remained cold from beyond the arc.
She missed her first three shots — all three-point attempts — against the Cougars in the first four minutes, and remained on the bench for the remainder of the half. She went on to miss all five three-point attempts in the game.
"I think what we're trying to do with April is two things, get April going to the basket and [stop this] business of just letting the threes fly at will," Stringer said. "I think she'll demonstrate her well-roundedness when she's attacking the basket. We asked her, ‘Would you rather shoot 2-for-15 three-pointers or five-for-seven attacking the basket?'"
In addition to Ray's performance, the Knights found production from fellow senior Myia McCurdy, who finished just shy of a double-double with nine points and seven rebounds.
With 43 minutes between them, the trio of freshmen made their presence known on the court.
Forward Monique Oliver continued a strong start to her first season at RU, blocking two shots and grabbing four rebounds and scoring eight.
Classmate Christine Huber registered her first three points in a Rutgers uniform, adding a block and four rebounds in a strong defensive performance. Guard Erica Wheeler contributed six points, two assists and four rebounds of her own in only 14 minutes of play.
Kean had no problems shooting from downtown, scoring 15 of its 25 points in the first half off of three-point shots behind 5-of-12 shooting.
The Knights were unable to definitively break away from Kean until just under eight minutes to play in the first half. Freshman guard Erica Wheeler drained two free throws to put RU up by 10, followed by a deep three from sophomore guard Nikki Speed. The Knights would add to their lead with 12 of Ray's points coming in the first half among the numerous other contributors.
"I'm not trying to label myself as the ‘go-to scorer'; I just want us to win," Ray said about her performance. "I think that this year we're going to see a lot more balance in scoring; I see Khadijah and April had double figures tonight as well, and Myia was a point away from that. We're trying to balance out the scoring a little bit this year."