Rutgers regroups for meeting with another regional foe in St. John's
It has been a tale of two games for the Rutgers women's basketball team — first predator, then prey.
The Scarlet Knights (1-1) began their season with a resounding 79-66 win over St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia on Nov. 13, but Rutgers followed up with a humiliating, 77-49, defeat at intrastate rival Seton Hall on Monday night.
In game one, the Knights were beyond efficient from 3-point range, knocking down 66.6 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc.
But in South Orange, Rutgers was unable to establish a rhythm from the perimeter against the Pirates and the offensive production suffered to 33.3 percent from three and 46.5 percent from the floor overall.
Thursday, the Knights will host another regional opponent in St. John’s (1-1).
The Red Storm also pose problems in the paint for head coach C. Vivian Stringer and a Rutgers team that was outrebounded by the Hall, 39-26.
“(Seton Hall) had 13 offensive rebounds, we had two,” Stringer said. “We didn't work the boards.”
The Johnnies enter the matchup averaging 41 rebounds per game while the Knights have managed a total of 57 boards in their first two times out on the floor in 2015.
Senior center Rachel Hollivay was active on the glass at Seton Hall, pulling down a team-high eight boards at the Walsh Gymnasium.
Her presence on the low block will be pivotal for the success of the offense in order to avoid a similar quagmire to the team from Queens. The Knights will look to get more opportunities for second chance points.
“We can do better,” Hollivay said. “There’s been times when I don't get rebounds at all and my guards are getting 'em. So we gotta all just come together, put the pieces together and just rebound.”
St. John's has also split its opening two games, coming off a 85-63 win over the UC Irvine on Sunday. The Red Storm crashes the Banks on the back end of a three-game road trip.
In order to reestablish an offensive rhythm, Rutgers will first need to defend a pair of premier senior guards for St. John’s in Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford.
Both members of the Storm’s backcourt are New Jersey natives and grew up in close proximity to the Rutgers' campuses.
Grant, who came of age in the shadows of the Louis Brown Athletic Center as a Piscataway native, poured in 28 points in the Red Storm's win over the Anteaters, after averaging 17.1 points per in her junior season.
And as if the 5-foot-9 Clemson transfer isn't difficult enough to defend on her own, the Knights will also have their hands full with Handford.
The Newark native and Shabazz High School product led the Big East in scoring a year ago, according to the conference’s website, averaging 19.3 points per contest. Handford has gotten off to a slower start in 2015-16, averaging 11 points in her first two games.
But similar to Seton Hall’s Shakena Richardson — a Rutgers transfer — whether they admit it or not, Handford and Grant will likely be playing with a little extra juice when they take on the State University of New Jersey.
At Media Day on Oct. 27, Hollivay told reporters to expect a more polished all-around game from her in her final season on the Banks.
“I work on it like every single day,” she said. “Different things, so I’m excited to see what I can do this year.”
If the first two games are any indication, Hollivay is improved. The 6-foot-4 center is averaging 8 points and 10 rebounds after scoring 6.7 points and collecting 4.6 boards per contest in her junior year.
Another important factor on the offensive side of the floor will be leading scorer, senior Kahleah Copper.
The wing fell into early foul trouble which hampered her offensively at Seton Hall, being held scoreless through the first 14 and a half minutes of game time due to foul trouble. But Copper caught up quickly, dropping a team-high 17 points in the 28-point defeat.
Stringer is hoping her seniors send a message to the rest of the team that is received by the rest of the players.
A wake-up call is needed to shake the shame of such a loss.
“I'm disturbed right now,” Stringer said after the loss in South Orange. “But if we wake up and realize that we were thoroughly embarrassed — I am embarrassed — we can play better. I know we can.”
For updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @KevinPXavier and @TargumSports on Twitter.