Marquee matchup with Lady Vols awaits at Garden
Next stop: Madison Square Garden.
After last night's 50-45 victory over Prairie View A&M, the Rutgers women's basketball team has just two days to rest up and practice before the fateful matchup with the Tennessee Volunteers and Hall of Fame head coach Pat Summitt.
Summitt and Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer face off as Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers for the first time, each needing a win at the world's most famous arena going forward.
"I'm excited about it because I want our team to go against the toughness of this Rutgers team," Summitt said in her weekly teleconference. "We'll learn a lot about ourselves win or lose. It's a great opportunity to be in the Garden and I know our team is really excited about that, and I am too.
"With the friendship I've had with Vivian, it's hard to look down the other bench. You have to keep your focus on getting your team to play the way they need to play."
Rutgers hosts Central Connecticut State and travels to George Washington after its Maggie Dixon Classic face-off with Tennessee before opening Big East play Jan. 2 against DePaul at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, a team that beat the Scarlet Knights in Chicago last season.
Entering the contest with Prairie View A&M, senior guard Brittany Ray provided the Knights' scoring anchor in five straight games.
This time she got some help.
Though Ray scored 11 points with a 50 percent shooting clip, she did not lead RU in scoring for the first time since sophomore Chelsey Lee dropped 15 on Southern California in the Paradise Jam.
Yet again, Lee provided the scoring life for RU with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and a career-high three steals.
"That's the only way we're going to win games," Ray said. "We can't win games if we only have one person scoring in double figures. That's going to be a very important factor for us. I'm happy that Chelsey Lee scored 12 points today. She's going to continue to be consistent."
For sophomore forward April Sykes to get out of her scoring slump — where she shot 6-of-34 through four games — the best way may be for her to shoot her way out.
Sykes gave Ray a little more offensive aid last night, making three of her seven shots and scoring eight points in 17 minutes.
"The smart thing for us is really to move April to a four," Stringer said. "Her movement is really more natural that way. It would be natural if she were to be there at the four and it would open the game up a lot."
Freshman forward Monique Oliver returned to action for the first time since bruising her knee in last week's 60-50 win over Princeton.
Oliver entered at the 11:07 mark of the first half and played 13 minutes, scoring four points and adding six boards.