Rejuvenated play leads Knights in romp
NEW YORK — Shakena Richardson and the Rutgers women’s basketball team entered Madison Square Garden yesterday with a chance to play in a building she admires.
“This is the Garden,” the sophomore point guard said. “I love New York. It’s a legendary place. It feels good to come here.”
Richardson’s style of play reflects the surrounding city, with no-look passes and attempted tricks both occasional parts of her repertoire.
But inside the arena, Richardson chose some new techniques on her way to recording nine points and a career-high six assistsin the Scarlet Knights’ 73-46 victory against Louisiana Tech.
“I think I have to be patient, let the game come to me more,” Richardson said. “I still have a lot of learning to do.”
Richardson’s nine points were one away from tying her career high. The total included a 3-pointer and consecutive field goals she made while fouled in the second half.
Even though the 5-foot-4 Richardson was the second-shortest player on either roster, her court vision was still crisp enough to split assists through defenders.
The Neptune (N.J.) High School product did not record an assist in four of seven games this year, and her game-to-game scoring output is as inconsistent.
Richardson took less initiative than usual in Thursday’s 0-for-1 shooting performance against LIU-Brooklyn, but it returned against Louisiana Tech.
But the production had rarely been there before.
Her play also helped senior forward Chelsey Lee’s recent rejuvenation, as Lee ended the game with 11 points off of 5-for-5 shooting in 19 minutes.
But Rutgers’ (5-3) shots also fell for a season-high 61.5 percent, including 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range.
“It definitely felt like the basket was the ocean [yesterday],” Lee said. “I felt like every shot we put up, either it was a good shot or uncontested. … We crashed the boards and got second-chance baskets, so I think that was the main thing.”
The Knights held only a 35-31 rebounding advantage against the Lady Techsters (2-5), but Lee reached a turning point in that regard.
Her six boards in 19 minutes came from arguably her most aggressive play since returning from last year’s shoulder surgery. One came on the offensive endto convert a put-back in her first couple of minutes, when the Lady Techsters swarmed.
“Just more confidence,” Lee said of how she regained her old form. “I’ve been struggling since I got back for the past six games, and it felt great just to feel like myself getting up and down the floor without bobbing my head and getting to the boards.”
For Rutgers to meet its season expectations, it needed Lee in pre-surgery form and for at least one point guard to step up.
No player has been predictable game-by-game this season, but the Knights made progress with the production it wanted from Lee and Richardson.
“We do know that we have talent throughout, and we need to continue to work,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “I’m learning, we’re learning.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JBakanTargum.