RU thinks road experience will translate to scoring
Despite losing four of its top six scorers from last season, the Rutgers women’s basketball team proved after only one game that scoring might not be an issue this season.
Six Scarlet Knights tallied double figures in the team’s season-opening 79-65 win Sunday against Princeton. Three are returning starters, but the others showed growth within the program.
Sophomore forward Rachel Hollivay flashed a variety of post moves against the Tigers, shooting 6-for-7 from the field for 10 second-half points. As one of Rutgers’ most talented true post players, she might break out this season.
The Knights also saw fresh legs in sophomore guard Briyona Canty’s return from knee surgery and the debut of freshman point guard Tyler Scaife. The former top-10-overall prospects combined for 23 points in the season opener.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer attributed the balanced scoring to a vocal unit that developed tight chemistry last summer.
“I was saying to them, if there were 15,000, 20,000 people, I think that they would hear each other, because it really matters,” Stringer said. “They know the only way we can win is to play together. … I’m not surprised. They’re making the pass to the open person, and they all recognize what each one does and they play to that.”
But the Knights (1-0) face the task today of remedying perhaps its biggest stigma from last season: an inability to win on the road.
Rutgers distinctively performed worse away from the Louis Brown Athletic Center last season, going 2-11 on the road in contrast to 13-2 in the confines of the RAC.
Stringer admits she is unsure how the Knights will handle their first test in Boston against Northeastern (1-0). But with the experience most of the roster gained from last season, Stringer expects improvement.
“Quite honestly, I’m anxious to see how we respond to playing on the road,” Stringer said. “One of the big things that we’re looking for as coaches is to see that we don’t recognize who the opponent is. That is to the point where we [don’t] play up or down. We have a same level of expectations.”
The players believe they now possess that quality.
Rutgers could have easily abandoned its identity in the interest of a revenge factor against Princeton after having lost, 71-55, to the Tigers last season.
But junior forward Betnijah Laney said that attitude did not fuel the team’s win.
“It wasn’t so much a revenge,” Laney said. “It was just going into a new season and making sure that we started out the right way.”
Laney picked up her second-career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against the Tigers, earning her a spot on this week’s AAC Honor Roll.
But now the Knights must prove they can flourish in another opponent’s building.
“I suspect that we know what it is to go on the road. They’ve all been there,” Stringer said. “Bri couldn’t help us obviously last year, and I think that there were a lot of injuries, a lot of reasons for what happened last year, whether people understand that or not. But having said that, we’re a year older, a lot more experienced, a lot more confident, a lot more focused in terms of what we need to do.”