RU pushes to redeem close loss back at home
The Rutgers women’s basketball team nearly pulled off a 13-point second-half comeback at Massachusetts Wednesday night, but the Scarlet Knights have some issues to resolve.
Rutgers (3-1) recorded a season-low in rebounds (33) against the Minutewomen and have regressed the last two games in points in the paint.
It coincides with the absence of junior forward Betnijah Laney, who left after 22 minutes Sunday against LaSalle with a sprained right ankle.
The Knights’ leading rebounder missed Wednesday’s game and is questionable tonight against Howard (2-2).
Sophomore forward Rachel Hollivay returned from a concussion sustained Nov. 13 and shot 7-for-11 with five boards against UMass, but Rutgers needs more down low.
Sophomore guard Kahleah Copper, the Knights’ leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, understands her captain role becomes even more significant when Laney is not on the floor.
It is not something that overwhelms her.
“Being a team leader now just means I have to grow up a little bit quicker,” Copper said Sunday. “It’s not really a problem because my teammates – Betnijah [Laney] and [junior forward] Christa [Evans], they’re always helping me, and Briyona [Canty] and [Syessence Davis], everybody’s always being a leader, so it’s not really a lot of pressure to be a leader because I’m surrounded by nothing but leaders.”
Davis, a junior point guard, inhabits that mindset as well.
She leads the Knights with 17 assists this season and has morphed into a true point guard at Rutgers after being more of a 2-guard at Neptune (N.J.) High School.
“[I’m] just following [head coach C. Vivian Stringer] always pushing leadership, she forces in my head, ‘You need to be a leader,’” Davis said Sunday. “… Coach Stringer wants to me run the floor, and that’s what I’m going to do. … I’m going to guide my team as much as I can.”
Last time at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Sunday, Rutgers struggled against LaSalle’s 2-3 zone defense. With their half-court offense stifled, the Knights needed to get out in transition more.
But Rutgers failed to take advantage of 20 LaSalle turnovers, turning them into just 11 points.
Stringer made it clear at the beginning of the season she wants the Knights to push the tempo offensively, which is primarily generated from turnovers.
While not concerned with Rutgers’ ability to handle a zone in the half court, Stringer cites it all starts with getting out in transition — with or without Laney on the floor.
“We didn’t run nearly as much, and at the beginning we started missing layups,” Stringer said Sunday. “For whatever reason, we were kind of jumpy, and maybe it was just because we didn’t have the services of everybody, but we will be able to score, and we will be able to score — period.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GregJohnsonRU. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.