Rutgers explodes for 100 points, destroys Davidson
With less than four minutes remaining in the game and one of the largest leads her team has had in her 20 years as head coach, C. Vivian Stringer unloaded her bench.
Despite an astounding 50-plus point lead, the faithful fans clad in scarlet didn’t jump to beat the traffic home. Instead, they elected to stay and get their money’s worth of a historic rout.
Then, Cynthia Hernandez brought them to their feet one last time.
As her teammates trotted up behind her, Hernandez pulled back and camped out at her hot spot on the right wing. The junior guard received a pass from a teammate at half court, pulled up to shoot and was knocked to the floor.
But after the ball splashed through the net, Hernandez went to the line for a rare four-point play and converted the attempt. The crowd roared as the number next to the “RU” on the scoreboard above center court blinked to 100.
It was that kind of day for the No. 21 Rutgers women’s basketball team — a day where everything went the Scarlet Knights’ way in a 100-44 shellacking of Davidson on Sunday afternoon.
“It was our intention to have everyone continue to push,” Stringer said of the blowout score. “I don’t think [the players] would accept — and I’m certain we as coaches wouldn’t accept — anything less. They want to represent and be proud of how they played.”
The Knights (6-0) hit triple digits for the first time since January 1995, when they defeated West Virginia, 100-71.
While her team had five players score in double-figures and shot a collective 57 percent from the field, Stringer pointed to the defense for the scoring opportunities that opened up.
Whether it was transition buckets, mid-range shooting or even the three-ball when it got going, Rutgers picked apart Davidson (3-3).
After a balance of contributions from the starting five in the first eight minutes, the bench continued the trend.
Syessence Davis checked in and initiated an immediate spark, even when it seemed the tempo couldn’t be jolted any further.
The senior guard snuck up and aggressively ripped a steal out of the arms of a Wildcat at half court during a full-court press before sending it up the floor on one smooth bounce to sophomore guard Tyler Scaife, who cruised to the hoop for two of her game-high 23 points.
Davis made her presence known off the bench, tallying 11 points, eight assists, five rebounds and eight steals.
“When we went in at halftime, we noticed that we were … almost at our average,” Davis said. “So when we [saw] it, we were like … ‘There’s no reason why we should let up because if it was UConn, they sure wouldn’t let up, so, hey, give it all we got. … Like hey, let’s go, we’re not finished. Every time we scored, we’re not finished.’ So, I mean, just pushing each other to the end even though we’re tired.”
As the first half clock continued to milk, Rutgers’ lead continued to grow.
After a series of steals, the Knights turned the hardwood into a rubber track, eventually ending the opening half with an impressive 55-17 stranglehold over the Wildcats.
Even with the commanding lead, Stringer refused to get comfortable.
Rutgers opened up the second half with a sense of urgency, continuing to breathe down Davidson’s neck on defense with the full-court press in effect for the first seven minutes of the half.
After forcing the Wildcats to turn the ball over 15 times in the first 20 minutes of play, the Knights kept their defensive tenacity relevant throughout the remainder of the contest. At the end of the day, they forced a total of 29 Davidson turnovers.
On the offensive side of the ball, regardless of who was on the floor and how much time was left on the clock, it seemed Rutgers couldn’t miss.
Senior wing Betnijah Laney was all over the court for the Knights, staying in the ballgame until the 4:55 mark, when she received a loud ovation from the home crowd.
It was a well-earned applause. Laney did it all for Rutgers — posting up, sinking baseline jumpers and swiftly driving through the lane all game long for 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
It was the sixth-straight double-double for Laney, who has yet to go a game without one.
“It’s huge. Betnijah’s great at rebounding, getting buckets down low, and in North Carolina and in the big games, we’re going to need her to continue to do what she’s been doing,” Scaife said. “So I’m happy she’s been playing that way, and she just needs to keep playing the way she has been playing.”
With a similar effort to Laney, junior wing Kahleah Copper dropped 13 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Going up against an elite team in No. 11 North Carolina on Thursday won’t require the same dominance exhibited in Sunday’s 54-point blowout.
But for Stringer, Rutgers needs to bring a similar effort and intensity.
“North Carolina scores 100 points in a minute. We all know that,” Stringer said. “They’re going to push the floor. They’re going to take the shot at the three-point range. You’ve got to come out and play.”