Decisions await Stringer following loss
Right when the Rutgers women’s basketball team looked to be on the verge of hitting its stride, it suffered a loss that left one question: Where does the team go from here?
The Scarlet Knights fell to Seton Hall on Sunday in what appeared to be a mental lapse and a last-minute effort that came too late.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer was not hesitant in voicing her frustration of the team’s collapse in a game viewed by many as a definite win. Stringer said the Knights lost focus in an uncharacteristic performance.
Areas the Knights appeared to improve in were not evident against the Pirates.
“We knew that 55 [to] 60 percent of [Seton Hall’s] offense was coming from two players,” Stringer said Sunday. “That is why we went to a triangle-and-two [defensive zone]. But then you have people on the floor that do not know their part of the triangle. I’m frustrated with that particular part. It is just a matter of remembering.”
Seton Hall guards Brittany Morris and Ka-Deidre Simmons exposed the Knights’ defense in a failed plan to make the game difficult for them. The duo combined for 30 of the Pirates’ 45 points.
“We worked on the press break,” Simmons said Sunday. “We knew how aggressive Rutgers could be. We were just prepared.”
Seton Hall broke down Rutgers’ defensive schemes, of note because of the Knights’ effort to contain the nation’s leading scorer, guard Sugar Rodgers, in a rugged win Jan. 22 against Georgetown.
“The win felt great,” said Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan. “I know how hard these guys work. I am not an easy coach. To see them have that kind of reward is a really good thing.”
The Pirates snapped a four-game losing streak and beat Rutgers for the first time after losing 12 consecutive contests that date back farther than a decade.
The Knights have some serious issues to evaluate as the season progresses. Senior forward Monique Oliver has not been the same player since returning from an Achilles’ injury that put her on the shelf for a few games.
She managed to score seven points against the Pirates, and Rutgers sorely missed her presence in the final minutes.
Oliver has also been battling a bad ankle that limits her ability to practice. She can only play in games but is also limited in the amount of minutes played.
“We’re not healthy on the inside,” Stringer said. “I choose not to use that as an excuse except to say why Monique wouldn’t have been in there in a crucial part of the game. If you look at it, she has not been playing much. She has not been playing anywhere near her sort.”
The highly anticipated threat of Oliver and senior forward Chelsey Lee’s on the floor together is also losing steam. It has been difficult to see both players thriving in action simultaneously because of both players’ respective injuries.
Sunday’s performance was the latest example of the duo’s inefficiency. Lee and Oliver combined for 5-for-14 from the floor, resulting in only 13 points.
As the schedule gets anything but easier for the Knights, it is uncertain how they respond.
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Aaron Farrar on Twitter @AFarrarTargum.