July 18, 2018 | ° F

Knights bring hot offense into Temple

Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

Sophomore guard Kahleah Copper leads RU’s offensive attack with 16.8 points per game on 60 percent shooting.

The Rutgers women’s basketball team’s first home defeat, which came in blowout fashion Sunday at the hands of No. 1 Connecticut, left an empty feeling. Then Essence Carson gave the Knights reason for hope.

The former Scarlet Knight star visited Rutgers’ locker room postgame. She had not only been there before — she arguably had it worse.

The 2006-07 Knights fell by 40 at the RAC to No. 1 Duke that December before advancing all the way to the national championship game, knocking off the Blue Devils in the Sweet 16.

Carson, who now plays for the WNBA’s New York Liberty, implored the current Knights to stay focused.

“What she was sharing with us is it depends on how we react to [the loss to UConn],” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer postgame Sunday. “Essence and the rest of those guys regrouped — really committed themselves. They wanted to hear all the little things.”

Carson also spoke to the Knights after a four-point loss Nov. 29 to then-No. 15 LSU in Brooklyn. Rutgers proceeded to win nine straight, ultimately garnering a No. 23 ranking in the last week’s AP Top 25. Then it suffered a two-game losing streak, including UConn.

Stringer reasonably saw no shame in a young team losing to the defending national champions, but early careless transition defense made the Knights uncompetitive.

“I think that we were playing extremely well [before], but I did notice some things the last game or two that I tried to warn us about,” Stringer said. “And it’s almost like, ‘Well, look what happened here.’ … As the wins began to pile up, I’m not surprised that these little things caught up to us. But I do trust, with the players that we have, we’re certainly talented enough. We’ll work hard enough to get it done.”

Rutgers (14-4, 5-2) got back on track Wednesday night with a resounding 69-48 win at Central Florida, and now looks to start another winning streak tomorrow at Temple.

The Owls (10-8, 4-3) enter the contest off a four-point home loss to Pennsylvania after previously putting together two straight conference wins.

A young team with few upperclassmen, like Rutgers, Temple has no definitive scorer and lacks efficiency on offense.

Guard Feyonda Fitzgerald leads the Owls at 12.8 points per game on 34-percent shooting. Only one teammate also averages double figures, and as a whole Temple barely hovers 40 percent shooting from the field.

Rutgers, meanwhile, is enjoying its most statistically productive offensive season since the 2007 Final Four team with 68 points per contest on 46-percent shooting.

Sophomore wing Kahleah Copper is still shooting a sizzling 60 percent for an average of 16.8 points. Freshman point guard Tyler Scaife continues to develop in her rookie season, now averaging 13.3 points per game and three assists.

A win against Temple would give Rutgers six road victories — already three times as many as it produced all of last season.

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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