All-around support offsets injury
When junior wing Betnijah Laney went down Nov. 17 with a high-ankle sprain, it was easy to write off the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
In recent years, injuries to former key post players such as Monique Oliver and Chelsey Lee significantly hindered the Scarlet Knights.
But head coach C. Vivian Stringer asserted before the season this team has a different feel.
So far, her claim has merit.
Even though Laney, averaging a double-double in three games, is arguably Rutgers’ (4-1) best player, the Knights have shown few ill-effects.
With Laney in the starting lineup, Rutgers averaged 67.7 points in the first three games. In the two games she has missed, the team averages a nearly identical 66 points per contest.
Rutgers’ depth is evident. At least two Knights have scored double figures in every game this season, including six combined in the games Laney missed.
Rutgers also offset Laney’s team-leading 11.7 rebounds in its most recent game Friday against Howard, corralling a season-high 57 boards.
“[Friday] was actually really important for us because we came down with a loss last time but we held our heads up,” said junior point guard Syessence Davis. “That’s in the past. We’ve got to get to the next thing. That was the thing we really had [Friday] — to just be positive and keep the energy flowing.”
The dominant post play was largely attributable to the Knights’ size advantage, as Howard possesses no players taller than 6-foot-1.
But without Laney, others still had to step up.
Even Davis, standing at only 5-foot-7, grabbed nine rebounds. While defensively playing the point, she saw significant time down low on offense to help fill Laney’s void.
“Betnijah, being hurt, was probably one of the most flexible players,” Stringer said. “She played the perimeter and she went inside, she played outside. We needed someone that had a real good feel for the movements, so it didn’t cause there to be a disconnect with everything else. [Davis] knows that generally point guards are that adaptable because they know the game, so they know other people’s positions.”
Sophomore forward Rachel Hollivay also rose to the occasion.
The 6-foot-4 Heritage Academy (Miss.) product broke out with 26 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks in 32 minutes. She was named yesterday to the AAC’s Weekly Honor Roll.
Hollivay, the nation’s ninth-best recruit in 2012, according to ESPNU HoopGurlz, can see her development producing results.
“With the help of my team and my coaches, it’s coming along really great,” Hollivay said. “I’m very excited about this season.”
Now the Knights’ focus shifts back on the road, where it hopes to clean up some lingering unforced errors in the half court.
The next tests come Friday and Saturday at the Barclays Center Women’s Invitational in Brooklyn, with Laney still questionable to play.
“We’ve just got to get better and we’ve got to work on our chemistry,” Davis said. “It’s great now, but it has to be even greater. I feel like that’s where teams start — with their chemistry, and that’s all we got to do is keep our chemistry moving forward and keep each other energized.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GregJohnsonRU. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.