Forward’s outside shot proves pivotal
Monique Oliver was wide open, took a moment and then stepped into her shot. The senior forward watched the ball slip off her fingertips and caress into the basket, resulting in an outburst from the 1,600 fans who focused on the ball in the air.
The 16-footer was the winning shot from the floor that propelled the Rutgers women’s basketball team to its first win of the season against George Washington. Oliver finished the game with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The Las Vegas native was so accustomed to getting her points in the paint that she was not prepared to be left alone in such a pivotal moment in a game. So there was a split second of confusion Wednesday night with a home-opening win on the line.
Oliver said that was not the only time she questioned whether to take a shot during the game. She hesitated “a couple times” looking to pass first than to shoot the ball.
“I just wanted to be patient and not force the shot,” she said. “I’m really not trying to force my shot. But when I saw that I was open, I took the shot.”
Oliver took most of the load in the post last season because of senior forward Chelsey Lee’s absence because of shoulder surgery. Now with Lee back and the duo ready to force its inside presence, Oliver can play inside and out, expanding her game to the perimeter to alleviate some pressure.
“Monique can do that,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “She can hit that shot. So make no mistake about it, she’s got greater range than that.”
Stringer needs Oliver to be more aggressive in taking those shots as they come. With the frontcourt crowded this season, a player that can play on the perimeter is crucial for the team’s potential success.
“We have a slew of inside players now,” Stringer said, “but everybody cannot expand and knock that shot down. We either play with two posts, but one of those posts has got to hit the outside shot. Chelsey will come out, and she took that shot, as well. You have to take it to make it.”
Oliver struggled to drain jumpers in a opening loss at Georgia, but was encouraged to keep hoisting them up. She finished with five points, only going 2-for-9 from the floor.
The ability to spread the offense and go beyond the paint was something she worked on during the offseason.
Playing above the free-throw line is especially important for the Knights’ post players because of their size. They are typically small at their positions, so drawing the defense out of the paint can be an advantage for the Knights.
“Monique is really a small center and the same thing with Chelsey,” Stringer said. “So for lack of better words, they’re fours and that’s what fours do. Fours have got to be able to knock down outside shots, as well as post in and get it done.”
Stringer is confident the frontcourt can enhance its skills and make the necessary changes for the team. Rutgers has almost a week until it travels Nov. 21 to Temple.
Stringer saw Oliver’s game-winning shot as a glimpse of what can come throughout the year.
“The shot that she took was good,” she said. “[Monique] is going to work on it enough that she’s going to feel comfortable in doing that because when she does, then that’s going to allow [freshman forward] Rachel [Hollivay] to come in, that’s going to allow [freshman forward] Ariel [Butts] to come in. So in our situation, we’re not looking to have two low posts. We have to have them high and low because they’re working off each other.”