Balanced attack offsets poor decision making
Only a team like Pittsburgh would allow leeway for the Rutgers women’s basketball team to get away with miscues.
The Scarlet Knights turned over the ball 21 times in last night’s 65-44 win against the Panthers, with errant passes and questionable decisions on offense.
The Knights also had to deal with the foul troubles from both senior forward Monique Oliver and freshman wing Kahleah Copper.
Oliver picked up her fourth foul with 17:12 remaining in the second half and fouled out with a little more than six minutes to play. Copper was forced to the bench at the 10:42 mark with her fourth.
Luckily for Rutgers, it compensated by spreading out the offense.
Three players hit double figures, with senior guard Erica Wheeler and sophomore guard Shakena Richardson each dropping 15 points. Sophomore wing Betnijah Laney contributed 10, while Oliver and Copper still chipped in eight.
“It feels great,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer on the scoring distribution. “We’ve been looking for that. It was good to see so many people contribute as they did.”
Wheeler shot 3-for-7 from 3-point territory, her third straight game in which she has connected on three or more attempts from behind the arc.
Richardson contributed closer to the basket, as she connected on five of her six attempts from the field, including a jumper from the right side of the court to give Rutgers a 53-36 lead with 7:33 left.
For Richardson, it was a vast improvement from her previous two games, where she dropped three points in each of the last two contests.
“I think it is always positive if I can just help my team whether it be giving assists, getting rebounds, any contribution I can give is a positive,” Richardson said.
Though Pittsburgh’s record is not something that will scare away teams, the Panthers strung together a strong opening performance against the Knights.
Pittsburgh matched Rutgers on every possession in the first six minutes of the game, extending its lead to as much as four, 11-7, early in the game.
But that changed once their leading rebounder went down with a shoulder injury.
Forward Asia Logan fell to the floor of the Louis Brown Athletic Center at the 14:25 mark in the first half, grasping her right shoulder. The coaching staff helped her off the court, but she did not return until the start of the second half.
Logan entered the game averaging 7.5 rebounds per game to go along with 14.7 points per game, the second highest total for the Panthers.
Before she went down, Pittsburgh held an 11-9 advantage. With one of its better players forced to the bench, Rutgers was able to pull away, outscoring the Panthers, 27-11, before both teams entered the locker room.
But Stringer did not pay any mind to Logan’s absence.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even focus on that,” Stringer said. “I just consider one going in and one going out. … We just look at what we have out there and match our players up accordingly, consider the foul situation and what we have been doing well, and keep working it until they stop it.”
Four players were honored before last night’s contest as part of the senior night festivities.
Guards Brittany Lapidus and Wheeler and forwards Chelsey Lee and Oliver were escorted to center court by their families. They were each given a framed jersey.
“This is personal, very, very personal to me,” Stringer said. “...When I look at how they came in as young ladies and how they are leaving, I’m ecstatic and I believe for all of them, better days are ahead.”
Lapidus, a walk-on, was inserted with 2:01 to play in the second half.