Stringer-less Knights plow through Hall
If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?
The Rutgers women's basketball team can attest to that adage after Wednesday's game against Seton Hall, when the Scarlet Knights chopped down the Pirates 54-44 in front of a snow-hampered crowd of 67 at tip-off.
Senior guard Brittany Ray continued her return to form, scoring a game-high 19 points for the Knights.
Ray's first shot — a three-pointer in the first half — put her in the record books as the 29th Scarlet Knight to score 1,000 career points. The guard, stuck in a scoring slump since the game against UConn, finally put the milestone behind her.
"It was a great feeling," Ray said. "I was just glad the first one went in. It just took everything off of me. I'm past it now. I haven't done anything different with my shooting, my teammates keep encouraging me and telling me to shoot so that's what I'm going to do."
Ray got some help from sophomore forward Chelsey Lee, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for her third double-double this season. The Knights' leading rebounder this season proved again to be a force on the glass, setting a new career-high in boards.
The quicker Lee got the start over senior center Rashidat Junaid, and the move paid off for the Knights who outscored Seton Hall 34-18 in the paint.
RU head coach C. Vivian Stringer remained absent from the court, due to her suspension from Wednesday's game for a violation of an NCAA policy that deals with male practice players.
Associate head coach Carlene Mitchell took over in Stringer's stead, guiding the Knights to victory for the first time since she coached the team last year against Farmingdale State.
"[Coach Stringer] really helped me before the game, she sent a text and said ‘Carlene you're going to do great, you're prepared and the team will be superb, go get 'em,'" Mitchell said. "Just getting that from her gave me a lot of confidence going into the game and helped settle the nerves."
RU had little trouble moving the ball through the Pirates defense despite the absence of its coach, finishing with 16 assists in the game to go along with 13 turnovers — only the second time this year the Knights finished with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.
"I think we did a good job of swinging the ball and getting into an offensive flow, but we can't go on scoring droughts," Ray said. "That's going to kill us in the long run."
Fueled by sophomore guard Khadijah Rushdan and senior forward Myia McCurdy, the Knights raced out to an 11-2 lead to open the game, but saw it slowly slip away. By the five-minute mark, the surging Pirates cut the advantage to two.
Ray responded by scoring six straight points as the Knights' defense slowly began to tighten the noose around Seton Hall. The stifling press continually left the Pirates with fewer than 10 seconds to work with in the offensive zone, and forced nine first-half turnovers.