Rutgers withstands late rally from Bryant, earns first win of season
It took six games, but the Rutgers women’s basketball team finally put together a complete game for the first time this season. The result was its first win of the year as the Scarlet Knights defeated Bryant by a score of 50-42 Sunday afternoon at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
The Knights (1-5) team that showed up was a completely different one than the group that was just recently blown out by 30 points by in-state rival Princeton.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer said that she knows that her team has potential, but they need to bring it every game. But after showing her frustration, saying her team doesn't "have any fighters" and that the team could very well go without a win all season, she'll take the win any way she could get it.
“We are calling on our players to demand more consistency from each other,” Stringer said. “I’m happy that we did win and it’s great.”
The game started off with some sloppy play from both teams. Shots weren’t going in, fouls were being called and turnovers were plentiful.
The Bulldogs (3-2) missed their first two free throws before scoring the first point of the day from the charity strip with 5:50 left in the first quarter. Bryant then knocked in a jumper with 5:15 on the clock for the first field goal for either team in the game.
Sophomore guard Aliyah Jeune finally put the first points on the board for Rutgers with a driving layup with 4:13 remaining in the opening frame. That ignited the Knights, as they went on a 7-2 run and forced the bulldogs to call a timeout with 59.2 seconds left in the first quarter.
Their run was capped off by great defense in the paint leading to a breakaway layup from junior forward Kandiss Barber. Another fast break layup by junior guard Shrita Parker made the score 11-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Bryant would respond with a 7-2 run of its own to take an 18-13 lead in the second quarter. Rutgers then answered back with yet another run, this time a 7-0 one to take a 20-18 lead. The teams then traded baskets back and forth with Bryant holding a slim 23-22 advantage at halftime.
The Knights began to press in the third quarter and it paid off, as Aliyah Jeune was able to steal the ball just behind half court and take it all the way for a layup to put Rutgers up 30-26.
Bryant had a tough time beating the Knights' famed 55 full-court press, and began to rush shots on offense, ending the 3rd quarter by missing 11 straight field goals. Rutgers slowly built a lead and Aliyah Jeune nailed a huge three-pointer with a hand in her face at the buzzer to put the Knights ahead 37-27.
“It’s my teammates trusting me and me trusting my teammates," Jeune said.
Rutgers found itself up 41-31 with about seven minutes left and on their way to victory.
Bryant would mount a mini-comeback, hitting a three-pointer and a layup in transition following a bad pass by the Knights.
Another Bryant layup, this time following a Rutgers shot-clock violation brought them within three points. The Bulldogs would answer a layup from sophomore center Victoria Harris with an Ivory Bailey three-pointer. The Knights were only up 43-41 with 3:09 remaining in the contest.
Although she had a rough day shooting the ball, going 2-for-9 from the field, Parker wound up being the hero for Rutgers.
She knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Knights back up by four and then drained a fadeaway three-pointer as the shot clock expired with 10 seconds left in the game to put the nail in the coffin and seal Rutgers' victory.
Barber had a career game, scoring 14 points, nearly twice her season average of 7.2, but she chose to spread the wealth of the credit amongst her teammates.
“I think it was just a team effort, swing the ball, getting the ball in open spaces,” Barber said. “And me making myself available for my teammates and all of us working together.”
The Knights heard Stringer loud and clear after her remarks following the Princeton loss Friday, showing they did have fight with their effort down the stretch to earn them a first victory.
“I thought we sustained a level of intensity longer than what we had. I didn’t know if we were gonna fold, or if we were gonna buckle down and come out on top.” Stringer said. “It was nice to see us settle down, be patient with the ball, and trust each other”