Senior delivers in clutch on night C. Vivian Stringer returns to sideline
Sometimes, there are those special moments in sports, scarce as they may be, that transcend, that grant release from the rigors of everyday life.
Rutgers win over Northwestern last night was one of those moments.
C. Vivian Stringer was back on the bench for the first time in two games, making her first appearance since the passing of her mother, Thelma Stoner, last week.
Rutgers’ players were cognizant of Stringer’s emotional struggle over the last month since her mother took ill around the New Year.
As soon as the final buzzer rang, senior wing Kahleah Copper rushed over to Stringer on the sideline and wrapped her arms around the winningest head coach in Rutgers history — a coach considered a second mother by many of the players — and held on tight.
“I just had to give her a hug, because I just know that this win was really good for her, making her feel better, because she hadn’t been (with the team),” Copper said postgame. “And just to show her that we can come out and fight and just, let basketball be her safe haven and let her be able to enjoy this moment.”
Stringer fought through tears in her postgame press conference, attempting to remain composed while expressing how important the victory was to her healing process.
While it won’t change the circumstances in her family, the Knights’ head coach was grateful to have such a moment with her team.
“Those kind of performances, they happen once in a lifetime. I wore blue because that’s my mom’s favorite color. I was just praying that I could have a level head and stay calm," Stringer said. "It’s been hard. My mom, she would come to all the games, any time she had the opportunity. I know she had to be smiling, and it was great to see the smiles on the team’s faces.”
Tyler Scaife may have been the hero for the Rutgers women's basketball team, but without Briyona Canty, the exultant cheers heard at the final horn on Wednesday night at Rutgers Athletic Center may never have been audible.
Scaife, a junior guard, delivered the dagger to Northwestern (14-11, 3-10) — a contested, transition lay-in with two seconds left on the game clock to put the Scarlet Knights (15-10, 6-7) up for good 61-59 — but it was Canty’s crushing body blow that quelled the Wildcats hope for a road win.
With Rutgers trailing 56-53 after a 3-pointer from Northwestern forward Nia Coffey, Wildcats head coach Joe McKeown called for time with 29 ticks left to set up his defense.
Knights head coach C. Vivian Stringer was left with two options — design a play for a 3-point shot to tie it, or attempt to get 2 points quickly and then foul to extend the game.
The Hall of Famer drew up a beauty.
Scaife came open in nearly the same spot she had drilled a triple to tie the game at 56 on a feed from Canty two possessions earlier, but this time, the junior was off the mark.
With the clock running at 14 seconds, Canty calmly collected the rebound, rushed back beyond the arc and promptly tied the game at 59.
“We know Briyona can knock down the 3,” Scaife said. “We’ve just been telling her to keep shooting, and for her to step up and make that shot was great. She’s been great rebounding and getting other people involved and scoring, so she’s just an all-around great player.”
The sequence was eerily similar to another game held at the RAC on Jan. 27, when freshman guard Corey Sanders collected his own rebound to hit a game-tying 3 against Illinois, sending the game to a second overtime.
Canty, a senior, will not likely see her heroic shot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 like Sanders, who earned the top spot on the daily countdown, but she and her teammates get to walk away with the win, something that couldn’t be said for the men’s team.
The Willingboro, New Jersey, native finished with 7 points, eight rebounds and three assists, a familiar statline for a player who rarely lights up the scoreboard, but almost always fills the boxscore.
After the game, Stringer was most proud of her senior guard’s confidence.
“She did not hesitate,” Stringer said of Canty. “She didn’t try to get it a little closer. She knew that we needed the 3. So it was good to see that kind of confidence."