Late free throws seal win for Knights
Senior guard Erica Wheeler iced the game with two free throws with eight seconds remaining and the Rutgers women’s basketball team grabbed its first win of the season in its home opener last night, defeating George Washington, 56-52.
The Scarlet Knights (1-1) narrowly escaped after a battle that went back and forth the entire way, managing to be too much for the Colonials (1-1).
Senior forward Monique Oliver led the way with a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.
Wheeler went to the free-throw line with the game on the line and delivered for Rutgers. The Miami native nailed both shots and gave the Knights a four-point lead to win the contest. With less than two minutes remaining, Oliver drained a wide-open jumper from the right wing to put the team up, 54-52.
Turnovers plagued Rutgers for the second straight game, allowing the Colonials to keep the game close.
The Knights turned the ball over 16 times in the first half alone, allowing George Washington eight points off of the mishandles. They finished with 27 turnovers, surpassing the 25 they had in an opening game against No. 10 Georgia.
Rutgers also could not find its range from behind the arc, going 0-for-5 from 3-point territory.
With 4:30 left to play, senior forward Chelsey Lee got the Knights back in the game after a turnaround shot from point blank range, cutting George Washington’s lead to 47-45. The basket gave Rutgers some momentum to pull out the victory.
“I think we just as a unit, just tried to stay focused,” Lee said. “We just tried to stay focused and not lose control of the game.”
A backdoor pass form Oliver set up the winning shot from the floor. The frontcourt duo hopes to have more connections like that as the season progresses.
“We definitely look for each other, especially when it’s crunch time,” Oliver said. “So I just tried to patient, and I got it into her.”
Lee saw the crucial play as a sigh of relief that they were able to be on the same page at a very important time in the game. They are still getting accustomed to one another after Lee sat out the 2011-2012 season following shoulder surgery, but the play was a good sign for the team.
“Sometimes I think I make blind passes just thinking that Monique is going to catch them,” Lee said. “I knew she would be looking for me, so I think that was just one of the moments where we were just in sync with one another.”
Rutgers rebounded in the second half of play after George Washington went on a 7-0 run, led by Shi-Heria Shipp, with 14 minutes remaining. Shipp scored six of the seven unanswered points for the Colonials.
The Knights entered the locker room with a slight advantage at 24-20. Freshman guard Kahleah Copper ignited the Knights offensively, leading the team with six first-half points and finishing the night with 10.
Rutgers was sluggish to open up the game until a fast break layup and continuing free throw from Oliver with nine minutes remaining in the opening half gave the Knights a three-point lead, their first of the game.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer was pleased to see the Knights come away with the first victory of the season at home, but she was not thrilled by the fashion. Turnovers cannot continue to be a constant for the team, she said.
“Well, I wish it would’ve been and could’ve been much cleaner,” Stringer said. “But again, this is some things that we learned. Each game I’m looking to see different people and how they function in crucial situations and understand what it is that we want.”