Oliver's play impresses in Hartford
HARTFORD, Conn. — At the start of the Big East Tournament, Rutgers freshman forward Monique Oliver became a different player.
For the third consecutive game, the Las Vegas native provided a consistent offensive performance that helped the RU women's basketball team keep it close against No. 7 West Virginia.
Oliver finished one point behind sophomore guard Khadijah Rushdan for the team's scoring lead, putting up 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, and pulled down six boards.
"I'm just going out there trying to do the best I can to help the team," Oliver said. "I'm trying to keep a cool head and help the team."
In the two games prior to last night's loss, Oliver scored nine points against both No. 11 Georgetown and Cincinnati on a combined 6-of-7 shooting. Her .609 field goal percentage entering the game is good for fifth place on RU's all-time single-season list.
During the regular season, Oliver averaged 5.4 points per game in 12.4 minutes.
"Mo is efficient," said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. "She has been offensively efficient. Can you imagine how much better she can be when she learns where's she's supposed to go? Because right now she doesn't. I'm extremely proud of her."
Oliver's offensive success led to a 17-9 advantage in bench points for RU.
But where Oliver succeeded for the third straight game, senior guard Brittany Ray struggled in her second consecutive game.
"I thought that they played as aggressive as they always do," Stringer said. "It's an outstanding team. I thought that we were just a little too tight. I think that we all wanted to do better, especially Brittany and April."
Ray scored five points in 29 minutes on 2-of-8 shooting yesterday after fouling out with three points in 25 minutes Sunday against Georgetown.
"I thought we did a great job on Brittany Ray," said WVU head coach Mike Carey. "I thought we were aware of where she was all night."
Senior center Rashidat Junaid did not even take off her warm-ups during the 50-minute marathon against Georgetown, but played 13 key minutes off the bench for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers began its first half comeback, eventually tying the game at the half, when Junaid first stepped on the floor.
She finished with two points, but made three blocks.
Sophomore point guard Nikki Speed drew her team-leading 23rd charge of the season in the final minute of the game. After a pair of dramatic three-pointers last night, Speed committed five turnovers and finished with four points on 1-of-4 shooting and three assists.
Since entering the Big East Tournament, Rutgers saw its strength of schedule boost up to No. 3 in the country and its RPI rating up to No. 24 on Collegerpi.com.