Pirates grant chance for momentum
One would have to go far into the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s record books to find a 43-point loss.
Seton Hall only has to go back to Nov. 19 to find their 72-29 loss against Michigan.
Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico, who won Big East Coach of the Year last season with St. John’s, continued to be a threat to Seton Hall after leaving the conference.
So is every tournament-contending team in the Big East.
Seton Hall (7-12, 2-4) began conference play strong with two wins. That was largely because it faced the only two teams with no Big East wins in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
When the Pirates host the Scarlet Knights (11-7, 2-3) Sunday in South Orange, N.J., Rutgers has a chance for another blowout to extend its winning streak to three.
Based on the results, blowouts have been incredibly valuable for the Knights.
The Knights strung three consecutive decided victories in nonconference play against LIU-Brooklyn, Louisiana Tech and Southern.
Their improvement in that stretch likely helped them in Dec. 16’s 42-34 victory against then-No. 21 Miami.
Most recently, Rutgers beat Georgetown on Tuesday, 55-47. The Hoyas, who are only half a game below the Knights in the Big East standings, are the best conference team Rutgers has beaten this season.
That came right after the Knights’ first conference victory, an 87-61 win against Providence.
Beyond Rutgers’ blowouts, most of its victories have been defensive battles. Rutgers is third-to-last in points per game in the Big East with 57.6, but fourth in points allowed per game with 52.8.
That will be the case until the Knights have at least one consistently dominant scorer. At the moment, senior guard Erica Wheeler and senior forward Monique Oliver barely average double figures.
Rutgers’ leading scorer for each game has scored less than 15 points eight times, including freshman guard Kahleah Copper’s 12 against Georgetown.
The Georgetown matchup was scrappy and defensive on both sides, and each team turned the ball over 20 times. Rutgers shot 31.9 percent from the field while Georgetown shot 25 percent.
The biggest difference between the Providence and Georgetown games was sophomore wing Betnijah Laney.
Laney netted a season-high 24 points Jan. 16 against the Friars, the highest figure any Knight has scored this season. She fell to eight points — closer to her season average of 8.9 per game — and shot only 3-for-13 from the floor.
The best Rutgers can say from the Hoyas game is that it shut down guard Sugar Rodgers, the leading scorer in the nation, to 3-for-20 shooting and a season-low 13 points.
The Knights stayed in the game with a more balanced offensive attack, which they have to rely on until a scorer sets herself apart.
Guard Brittany Morris leads Seton Hall’s scoring with only 12.6 points per game. Morris is the only Pirate to score at least 20 points in a game this season, which was Nov. 11 against Lafayette.
Seton Hall is one of the only teams in the Big East with a lower scoring offense than Rutgers, averaging 55.4 points per game. The Pirates also allow 60.5 points per game.
The Knights have a chance for a win with an even greater point differential, which could put their season more on track.
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JBakanTargum.