June 18, 2018 | ° F

RU focuses on pressure ‘D’ for Wildcats

For as close as the Rutgers women’s basketball team came to vindicating its season’s hot start with a win over now-No. 13 LSU last Friday in Brooklyn, it troubled head coach C. Vivian Stringer.

The Scarlet Knights committed a season-high 29 turnovers, which the Tigers turned into 31 pivotal points in their 69-65 win.

“At the end of the day we were mentally not there because we were excited, nervous, somewhat intimidated,” Stringer said. “We were excited playing the No. 15 team. Real Scarlet Knights don’t get excited about that.”

Presumably not as excited Saturday in the consolation game of the Barclays Women’s Basketball Invitational, the Knights took better care of the ball, committing just 11 turnovers in a 61-52 win.

Going back on the road tonight in Davidson, N.C., Rutgers (5-2) is stressing pressure defense and efficient ball handling.

“We have to make small adjustments on our defense and not turn the ball over so much,” said sophomore wing Kahleah Copper. “I think we realized that once we didn’t turn the ball over so much [against Texas Tech] and made the defensive adjustments, we were going to be successful.”

Davidson (3-5) is arguably the most lethal offensive team Rutgers has faced this season, averaging 70.1 points per game.

The Wildcats also convert 6.4 3-pointers per contest, while the Knights are averaging only 1.7 buckets from behind the arc this season.

Wing Hannah Early leads Davidson’s deep shooting prowess with 20 threes on 51-percent shooting from long range.

Along with guard Laura Murray, the duo combines for 34.5 points per game.

“They’re a really good shooting team so we’re going to have to be out, we can’t sag back, and make sure that we stop their shooting,” said junior wing Betnijah Laney.

But the Wildcats, losers of five of their last six, have their own issues.

Opponents are tallying 77.6 points per contest against Davidson, which should bode well for a balanced Rutgers attack. At least two Knights have scored double figures in every game thus far.

And despite their efficient long-range shooting, the Wildcats are converting just 40.9 percent of attempts from the field as a whole. That will likely cater to Rutgers’ transition game and up-tempo ball movement.

Freshman point guard Tyler Scaife, who led the Knights with 18 points against Texas Tech, is proving capable of running Stringer’s aggressive offense.

“That’s my style since high school,” Scaife said. “I like to push the ball and find the open man.”

Rutgers also expects to be close to full strength tonight.

Laney, who missed two games with an ankle injury, played 57 total minutes against LSU and Texas Tech. Prior to the injury she averaged a double-double in three games.

Laney estimates her health to be about 90 or 95 percent at this point.

“I felt OK,” Laney said of the invitational in Brooklyn. “I was just coming off my injury and it wasn’t 100 percent. Then on Sunday, I was feeling kind of sick from taking some medication for my injury and not eating, but other than that I don’t think there were any setbacks.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GregJohnsonRU. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

By Greg Johnson

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