Rutgers takes Tigers in 69-57 win to extend streak to four
Not even a visit from perennial powerhouse LSU was enough to derail the Rutgers women’s basketball team as the Scarlet Knights rolled the Lady Tigers 69-57 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center Saturday afternoon. Rutgers (9-3) extended its win streak to four as the Knights can now turn their attention to the conference schedule when they welcome Minnesota to the Banks on New Year’s Eve for the Big Ten opener.
Junior guard Tyler Scaife scored a game-high 18 points on 53.3 percent from the floor (8-of-15) as she moved into 25th place all-time in scoring in school history.
“I think I'm in a good rhythm right now and the ball is droppin’," Scaife said, while critiquing herself for the shots she missed. "I could've shot better on the percentages though, I missed a lot of easy shots.”
Both teams entered the tilt at the RAC holding opponents to under 55 points per game, but Rutgers started hot and the Lady Tigers (6-5) kept pace as the schools traded blows throughout the opening period to finish the first quarter with the Knights holding a narrow 20-17 lead.
After matching each other with 17 points apiece in the second stanza, Rutgers carried a 37-34 lead into the halftime break.
Whatever head coach C. Vivian Stringer said in the locker room lit a fire beneath the home team, as the Knights dominated play in the third quarter, outscoring LSU 18-8 and dropped it into cruise control in the final 10 minutes to come away with the 12-point win.
“I think we just came and we turned it up, defensively and we started getting fired up," said senior wing Kahleah Copper. "I think everybody just made a contribution and (we) just continue to push forward.”
Freshman KK Sanders rewrote the offensive script for Rutgers, scoring a career-high 12 points to go with four rebounds and two assists. For most of the season the Scarlet and White have been in search of a third option on the offensive end, with Copper and Scaife combining to average over 32 points per game entering Saturday's matchup.
Stringer, who raved about Sanders ability back at Media Day Oct. 27, was happy to see all the talent flashed by the freshman in her recruitment coming to fruition on the floor.
“She had a little fore-warning because (senior guard) Briyona (Canty) had hurt her knee in the game before that," Stringer said of Sanders awareness of the minutes she could expect. "KK knew she got more reps and she knew that she was gonna start. … So I thought that she really settled down and understood more of what we had to do.”
Copper dropped 15 points and pulled down six boards to assist Scaife on the offensive end, while displaying improvement in her perimeter shooting, knocking down 1-of-3 from behind the arc and hitting several deep jumpers for two.
The Knights fourth-straight win gives them back-to-back wins over LSU after defeating the Lady Tigers last year down in Baton Rouge,coming away with an seven-point win, 64-57, last November. It also marks the first signature win of the season for Rutgers.
Although the Bayou Bengals look to be in for a down year, a victory over such a storied program is nothing to sneeze at. Just don't tell that to Copper, for the only thing she saw on the opposing side was a different colored jersey.
“I don't think that we look at it like that," Copper said. "We look at it like they have on a different jersey than we do. So we’re just going out there competing, going out to play hard.”
Rutgers closes the non-conference schedule 9-3. The Golden Gophers will be the next big test for the Knights and their coach is just hopeful that the team is ready to bang with the titans of the Big Ten.
“We are a team that's in progress," Stringer said. "We’re not anywhere near where we’re going to be.”