June 17, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers returns home, attempts to hault recent struggles

Photo by Nelson Morales |

Senior forward Monique Oliver leads Rutgers’ frontcourt in scoring with 11.6 points per game, but the Rutgers offense has had a hard time clicking for a full 40 minutes in the Knights’ two-game losing streak.

The Rutgers women’s basketball team looks to put an end to its two-game losing streak tonight on its home floor against LIU-Brooklyn.

The Scarlet Knights (3-3) return to their own hardwood after falling to Boston College, 58-56, after a disappointing loss to in-state rival Princeton.

The defeat was the latest sign of the team’s struggle to take control of games from the opening tip, an occurrence that has resulted in some early-season frustration.

“I feel like we have good chemistry on the floor,” said senior forward Monique Oliver. “It’s just we have to come out with more energy in the beginning of the game. It’s like we bring all our energy in the second half, so we’re basically like a second-half team.”

Photo: Nelson Morales

Senior guard Erica Wheeler scored a season-high 19 points Sunday against Boston College. But the Knights still lost the game on Eagles guard Kerri Shields’ layup with five seconds remaining.

That was the case against the Eagles. The Knights erased an 11-point deficit to take their first lead with four minutes remaining.

But Boston College guard Kerri Shields answered after connecting on a lay-up down the lane with five seconds left to take the final lead. Rutgers senior guard Erica Wheeler came back and heaved one up from half court, but was off the mark.

“I think the team is a little behind. We have to pick it up,” Wheeler said of the team’s struggles. “The season is getting tougher and tougher. It’s not getting easier. So we just have to pick it up as a team and pick it up as far as scoring, rebounding and on the defensive side.”

The Miami native has been the motor for the Knights, leading in the scoring column with 12 points per contest along with three assists and 2.7 steals early in the season. She put together a season-high 19-point performance against the Eagles, but it was not enough to propel Rutgers to a victory.

Wheeler said that it’s “nothing in particular” the Knights have to do to get back on track. Collectively, they need to put together a complete game each time they take the floor.

“It’s just we have to come together as a team,” she said. “You see that at certain points in the game we play hard and [put together] good defense and scoring, and then there are some when we’re not. So it’s just that we have to bring it all together. We just can’t do it in the first half and not do it in the second half or not do it the first half but in the second half.

Rutgers hosts LIU-Brooklyn (2-3) for the first time since Feb. 16, 1981 and only the third time in school history. The Knights won the first two meetings against the Blackbirds by an average of 55 points.

Another blowout would do wonders for the team’s confidence.

Maintaining control of the ball has been an issue for Rutgers thus far. The Knights cough up almost 19 turnovers per game. The squad is also allowing opponents to shoot 40.8 percent from the field.

“The missed cues that are happening out there are incredible,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “We’re playing as we are. We’re playing as freshmen and sophomores. It’s going to be a little while. I think that we will evolve because we’re getting serious minutes. The mistakes are happening so fast that we’re easily going down by 15, 16 points right at the beginning.”

The growing pains are not allowing the Knights to check out mentally, with the young season allowing for more opportunities in the win column.

“Definitely, we’ll get a turnaround,” Oliver said. “It’s the beginning of the season. We still have a little more time. So as we move forward, I feel like we’re going to get better and we’ll recognize where our hits are and the strength of our offense.”

By Aaron Farrar

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