Rutgers routs Wisconsin for seventh straight win at RAC
After stumbling out of the blocks to start, the Rutgers women's basketball team rebounded to rout visiting Wisconsin, 61-41, at the Rutgers Athletic Center on Thursday night.
The Scarlet Knights (11-4, 2-1) hit just one of their first 10 shots to open the contest, but a strong defensive effort led by junior guard Tyler Scaife gave them an opportunity to regroup before pouring it on the Badgers (5-8, 1-2).
An 11-0 run to start the third quarter led to 36-point second half points, ultimately fueling a 20-point win.
Senior wing Kahleah Copper had a complete game, leading all scorers with 19 points and a game-high 13 rebounds to give Rutgers its seventh consecutive win at the RAC.
Copper scored 12 points in the second half in part because of the energy she was gaining from pulling down rebounds, she said.
“Getting rebounds and just putbacks, that just gives me easy points,” she said. “And then I can just go from there.”
The poor shooting at the outset put the Knights behind 11-2 after Wisconsin made a 7-0 run. Copper responded with a 3-pointer at the 2:14 mark and Rutgers mounted a run of its own, capped by a triple from senior guard Cynthia Hernandez to give the home team a 12-11 lead after one period of play.
Hernandez’s trifecta marked the only lead change of the game.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer’s team led, 25-22, at the break and the Knights came out firing to start the second half. Rutgers then strung together five consecutive buckets to start the third quarter and never looked back.
Stringer felt that playing at home gave her team the ability to fight through the early shooting woes.
“Obviously, you can (play) slow at the beginning and then pick it up, because generally the crowd gets into to it so it’s hard (for the opponent) to block that noise out,” Stringer said. “Unfortunately, we started off slow but I think (we) stepped it up.”
Scaife added 17 points and six rebounds to go with three assists to complement Copper on the offensive end of the floor.
But it was the junior guard’s defense that made the biggest impact.
Nicole Bauman entered the game for Wisconsin averaging 15.9 points per contest. Scaife held the Badgers' leading scorer to 2-of-6 shooting from the field in the first half for five points.
In the second half, Scaife squeezed the clamps on Bauman even tighter. The senior guard failed to register a single field goal in the final two periods on 0-for-5 shooting, with two free throws standing as the only points she managed over the final 20 minutes of play.
“I just tried to make sure she didn't get any open looks,” Scaife said. “I just kept close to her and for the most part, I think I did a good job.”
Senior guard Briyona Canty came off the bench to score 11 points, all of which came in the second half, highlighted by a pair of jumpers from distance to keep the Badgers at Bay.
So what has been the key to seven consecutive victories at the RAC?
“I think we have a really great crowd,” Scaife said when asked about the home winning streak. “When we get the crowd behind us and they’re cheering for us and doing the chants it energizes us to play even harder.”
Rutgers faces No. 5 Ohio State next when it travels to Columbus on Sunday. With every conference game that passes, the Knights will face more and more difficult opponents.
But for Copper, it’s just another game, against another team.
“We’re just ready to come out and compete," she said. "Just another team not (wearing) a Rutgers jersey."