Rutgers slams St. Joseph’s in season opener
In its inaugural game of the 2014 season, and the first since winning the WNIT Championship, the Rutgers women’s basketball team cruised to a 76-52 victory Friday night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center against St. Joseph’s.
The Scarlet Knights (1-0) had four players in double figures and extended their win streak to 13 games dating back to last year.
From the outset of the game, the Knights’ defense set the tone and controlled the flow of the game. It forced a turnover on the Hawks’ first possession, which was a common theme throughout.
Rutgers forced 21 turnovers in total and held the Hawks to 31 percent shooting from the field.
“We considered playing zone because they shoot extremely well and are a precision passing team, but the way this team was moving, we were just on top of them,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “We were there with them at the catch as man-to-man is our bread and butter, and it is something we will begin to add along with full-court pressure.”
While the Knights’ defense was clicking from the start of the game, the team’s offense took some time to shake off the rust from the offseason.
Rutgers only shot 34.3 percent from the field — forfeiting seven turnovers in the first half alone — but still went into halftime with a 30-24 lead in large part to its defense.
Once the second half started, the rhythm and fast-paced offense Rutgers was known for last season came alive.
The Knights poured in 46 points and shot 62.1 percent from the field in the second half alone. They scored 24 points off the fast break to St. Joseph’s two — a clear sign the offense found its way in the final 20 minutes of the game.
“I think at times we were impatient in the first half because we needed to continue to attack and we started settling for jumpers,” Stringer said. “When we started moving the ball quickly we were getting the open jumpers, which are more likely to fall because it’s all in a flow.”
Senior wing Betnijah Laney had her first double-double of the year with 10 points and 13 rebounds, junior wing Kahleah Copper totaled 14 points and junior guard Briyona Canty poured in 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds in a strong all-around game.
Sophomore guard Tyler Scaife led all scorers with 23 points, shooting perfect from the field in the second half after going 3-9 the first half.
Scaife admitted to starting slow, but said her confidence is what allowed her to come out aggressively and set the tone in the second half.
“Having an extra year definitely has helped my confidence, but I feel like I’m naturally that way,” Scaife said. “I have a lot of confidence and having my team behind me helps me out, as well when I’m out there on the court.”
Rutgers held advantages in rebounds (41-39), points in the paint (34-16) and points off of turnovers (24-7).
With a strong start, the Knights are expecting nothing but improvement with each game they play.
“We were just trying to build off of where we left off last year in winning the WNIT,” Laney said. “This win was good for us because everyone played well, no one struggled, and moving forward we just want to continue to progress.”
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