July 19, 2018 | ° F

Ranked WVU looms for RU

Photo by Ramon Dompor |

Freshman center Monique Oliver averages 5.6 points and 3.6 boards in 13.6 minutes per game for the Rutgers women's basketball team.

When asked about tonight's game against No. 9 West Virginia after the Rutgers women's basketball team's latest victory over Villanova, head coach C. Vivian Stringer said the thought of playing at Morgantown felt like the return of a toothache.

In that case, it may be up to Brittany Ray — an aspiring doctor — to add the title of dentist to her list of responsibilities, if only for a day.

Ray and the Scarlet Knights (15-10, 7-4) square off tonight against the ranked Mountaineers (22-3, 9-2) on the road, the toughest test for the team in its past four games.

"I think the game against West Virginia will tell us a lot — a lot — about how far we've come," Stringer said. "So I'm cautiously awaiting that particular game."

Whether Ray's shot is back is still up in the air. The senior guard dropped a game-high 19 against Seton Hall last week but did not score at all in the first half against Villanova. While she atoned for that with 14 second-half points, today's game against the Mountaineers provides the ultimate test.

Still, Ray's efforts over the past two games were good enough to earn her recognition from the conference with her third inclusion to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll. The guard has also been named Player of the Week once this season.

"I think we're playing good right now, we're still making a few mistakes," Ray said after Villanova. "But I think we're playing together and I think we're trusting each other a little bit more and Coach Stringer always talks about being your sister's keeper, and I think everyone is helping out one another a little more on defense."

RU dispatched the Wildcats with only seven players because of speed concerns. The most action senior and freshman posts Rashidat Junaid and Monique Oliver saw against Villanova was when teammate Khadijah Rushdan annihilated the bench next to them while diving for a loose ball.

The Knights will need their full roster against the Mountaineers. West Virginia fields one of the biggest and most physical rosters in the Big East, and when push comes to shove the size of Junaid and Oliver will be invaluable tonight.

The Mountaineers field two centers — one six-foot-four, the other six-foot-five — and are outrebounding their opponents by 7.6 boards per game. Freshman center Aysa Bussie, who stands at six-foot-four, is second on the team in both points and rebounds per game with 11.3 and six, respectively.

"Given West Virginia, Mo [Oliver] and Rah [Junaid] will see considerably more time," Stringer said. "It's a different kind of team, and maybe April [Sykes] and Myia [McCurdy] won't see as much time. The idea is do the best you can and we base it upon who we're playing, and that's what it is."

Steven Williamson

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