Oliver sparks bounce-back win
History was not only made, but also repeated itself as the Rutgers women’s basketball team cruised past LIU-Brooklyn, 58-32, to remain perfect at home and end its two-game skid.
“We had to come out stronger than what we had been doing,” said senior forward Monique Oliver, who led the way with 18 points. “I felt like everybody came out with energy and getting in the flow of things.”
The Las Vegas native moved into the history books as the 32nd player to collect one thousand points in her career. She received the ball in the paint with 8:22 left to play and connected on a layup to achieve the accomplishment, followed by a standing ovation as she trotted off the court.
“I wasn’t even aware that I hit my one thousandth point,” she said. “I just thought of it as another basket and it’s exciting.”
Several Knights contributed in the lopsided victory. Players got into the passing lane, forcing LIU-Brooklyn to give up the ball, which led to points on the other end. Senior forward Chelsey Lee came off the bench and provided another spark for the Scarlet Knights, finishing with nine points and five boards.
After watching from the sidelines last season, Lee is steadily working her way back to her old form, showing a glimpse of that throughout the night.
“It’s definitely been a challenge,” she said. “But my teammates support [me]. It’s just been a challenge just trying to get back to playing as myself.”
Rutgers ran the Blackbirds out of the gym, forcing turnover after turnover. With 2:30 left before intermission, several Knights dove for a loose ball with Oliver in the middle of the pack. She came away with a steal and a layup after an assist from Lee.
The sequence brought the crowd to its feet as the Knights put forth a complete effort on the defensive end from the opening possession of the game.
Rutgers closed out the first half with an 18-point advantage, 37-19, as it continued to shoot well from the floor at 56.7 percent. Oliver led across the score sheet with 11 points, four rebounds and two steals as the Knights headed to the locker room.
“[The win] was important because we had been starting slow,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “We would get so far down that it was hard to recover. I think what we need to do and will is continuing trying to push tempo on the offensive side. I think we made a conscience effort to do that.”
Rutgers also received productivity from the first year players throughout the outing. Freshman guard Kahleah Copper came off the bench and scored eight of her nine points in the first half. Teammate Precious Person picked up in the second half to score 11 of her 12.
The Knights opened the game with a 9-1 run. Oliver netted seven of those points. Rutgers got off to an early lead and never looked back in a game the Knights never trailed.
Blackbirds center Tamika Guz was the only player that had the touch for LIU-Brooklyn, leading the team with 10 points and five rebounds.
Rutgers prepares to play at the Madison Square Garden on Sunday when it competes in the annual Maggie Dixon Classic for the fifth time against Louisiana Tech. The Knights look to build off the strides in this victory.
“It’s a work in progress,” Stringer said. “We’re still trying to put our transition part of the game together and still looking at what Chelsey said, ‘trying to find out what special thing do we know that we can do.’”