Knights receive chance to test out depth
Coming off consecutive victories of 26 points or more, the Rutgers women’s basketball team has had two games to jell and escape early season struggles.
Southern enters the Louis Brown Athletic Center tonight to give the Scarlet Knights a third chance to boost their confidence.
Despite coming from a school that is not a household name in the Northeast, the Jaguars have made a mark on women’s college basketball.
Head coach Sandy Pugh has led Southern to the NCAA Tournament four times in her 12 years there, even producing a WNBA draft pick in 2002.
The Jaguars’ (0-8) problem is that is all in the past.
The matchup gives the Knights (5-3) a chance to further experiment with lineups, as they did in their last two easy victories.
Despite the low-risk environments of the last two games, Rutgers still has questions to answer for itself.
Its point guard situation with sophomores Syessence Davis and Shakena Richardson has yet to sort itself out, as the Neptune (N.J.) High School products are still a work in progress.
Davis still has scoring issues, and Richardson still struggles with inconsistency.
Richardson put together her best performance at Rutgers against Louisiana Tech on Sunday with nine points and a career-high six assists. But she also went scoreless in three games and did not record an assist in four games this season.
Davis leads the Knights with 28 assists this year, including five or more in three games, and is second on the team with 15 steals.
But her season-high point total is only four, and she shoots .296 from the field.
The Knights also get to experiment with their frontcourt. Considering the depth, it is important for head coach C. Vivian Stringer to figure out how to use it for Big East play.
Senior forward Monique Oliver has been Rutgers’ most consistent asset, leading the Knights with 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
That total is not very high for a team’s leading rebounder, but that comes mostly with a team with several competent players on the boards.
Senior forward Chelsey Lee has become one. She has recorded five and six rebounds, respectively, in the last two games as she transitions back to her pre-surgery form.
Lee has come off the bench in the past four games, and sophomore Christa Evans has started the last two at power forward.
Evans has not played more than 25 minutes in a game this season. Part of that comes with splitting time with Lee, but Evans still needs to work on keeping out of foul trouble.
Evans’ two quick fouls against Louisiana Tech contributed to the Knights’ biggest weakness in the game. They led the Lady Techsters in personal fouls, 21-12.
The lackluster competition also gives Stringer a chance to incorporate freshman forwards Ariel Butts and Rachel Hollivay again.
Butts had a breakout performance against Louisiana Tech with six points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes.
The Carver (Ga.) High School product is still developing with Hollivay, but the Knights are waiting for Hollivay to put together a performance like Butts’.
Hollivay, the ninth-ranked 2012 recruit entering the season, shot 2-for-2 in the last game, but the 6-foot-4 forward has still not adjusted to beating larger, more athletic players of the college game for rebounds.
If Southern plays like it has all season, there is likely little risk in the Knights bringing any lineup on the floor.
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JBakanTargum.