When a team shoots 22 percent from the floor in a basketball game, chances are a victory is not in the cards.
Exhibit A: the Florida Gators.
The Rutgers women's basketball team tightened the screws on defense yesterday against Florida, holding the Gators to 11-of-50 shooting from the floor en route to a 51-38 victory.
"I think it was a great defensive effort. [Head coach C. Vivian Stringer] always emphasizes picking the defensive intensity and jump on the other team before they jump on us," said senior guard Brittany Ray. "Sometimes you have a bad night, sometimes you can't hit shots and sometimes you can hit all the shots in the world. I think it was just a good defensive effort on our part."
In what is becoming a common theme this season, Ray and sophomore forward Chelsey Lee paved the way for the Scarlet Knights.
Lee played a strong all-around game, finishing just shy of her second career double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds — all 12 points came in the first half. The forward added three blocks and two assists on the night.
True to form, Ray led the Knights in scoring for the seventh time this season, dropping 16 points along with a pair of steals and assists.
"It's always amazing to see [Lee] play. She was a part of that freshman class and she was the least heralded of that class, but no doubt one of the most productive," Stringer said. "She's put in the work ethic and she's true about who she is and what she needs to do … she's been a real pleasant big, big surprise."
A Florida three-pointer with just over 10 minutes to play in the game brought the Gators to within eight points — the narrowest lead for RU since 3:21 of the first half.
Sophomore guard Khadijah Rushdan responded by draining a timely three-pointer — her first of the night — to extend the Knights' lead back to double digits. It was smooth sailing for RU from that point on.
Ray nailed consecutive three pointers and sophomore guard Nikki Speed added a bucket as the shot clock expired as RU stormed ahead to a 47-29 advantage.
The Knights limited guard Jordan Jones, Florida's leading scorer with 14.1 points per game, to seven points on an atrocious 3-of-19 shooting. Jones finished 1-of-14 from beyond the arc.
While RU's offense shifted into neutral during the beginning of second half, their defense was firing on all cylinders. If there was a hole in the Knights' defense yesterday, the Gators certainly could not seem to find it.
Florida missed 17 straight field goals on a 19-1 RU run that stretched from the 11-minute mark of the first half into the second stanza. The Gators barely made a three-pointer with just under 15 minutes to play, getting the ball off as the shot clock expired.
After committing 21 turnovers for two straight games, the Knights exhibited better ball control and finished with 13. RU was the beneficiary of 19 Gator giveaways, scoring 17 of its points off turnovers.
"Coach Stringer always stresses turnovers because turnovers can lead to points for the other team," Ray said. "We had 13 today so that was pretty good. [Coach] tries to keep it between 10 and 12, so we're just going to continue to work on that."
Though the team got off to a slow start, the scoring tandem of Lee and Ray provided a much-needed spark, accounting for 22 of the Knights' 28 first half points.
A key steal and a layup by Ray highlighted a 17-1 RU run to close out the first half. Lee was a monster on the boards, grabbing six rebounds in the first half — four on offense.
"I feel like we crashed the boards more," Lee said. "In the beginning, talking with just my teammates, I told them that I feel like the other team's guards always come in and grab our offensive rebounds because our guards are getting back on defense. We just tried to work on making sure that the guards helped box out."