Rutgers ends year on high note with win over Penn State
Judging by the way the beginning of the season went, some began to worry that the Rutgers women’s basketball would struggle to win a Big Ten game this year.
Well, the Scarlet Knights did just about everything but struggle on New Years Eve at the Rutgers Athletic Center, as they led from start to finish in a 61-45 victory over Penn State.
“I thought that we played well, played hard, played together,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “For the first time, (we) really put all four quarters together”
Stringer puts an emphasis on winning each quarter individually.
In their previous game against Michigan, the Knights (4-11, 1-1) were outscored 17-6 in the third quarter and were put away by the Wolverines in the penultimate period. Against the Nittany Lions (10-4, 0-2), the Knights extended their lead by outscoring the Lions 11-10.
Some stress was lifted for Rutgers, but it still had to finish the game, which it did by exploding for 20 points in the fourth quarter and extending its lead to as large as 21 points with just over three minutes remaining.
The Knights were able to put down the Lions with effective three-point shooting, an area they've struggled in this year. But those struggles did not deter them, as they kept finding and making open looks late in the game.
Junior guard Shrita Parker hit one to put Rutgers up by 19 in the fourth quarter en route to a career-high 19 points for her.
“It’s just a matter of having confidence and shooting it,” she said. “We make them in practice, we just have to transfer it to games.”
Getting in on the action was junior Kandiss Barber, who attempted and made her first shot from beyond the arc of the season and was 2-3 from behind the arc. She chipped in 18 points on 8-12 shooting
“I’m not naturally a three-point shooter,” Barber said. “Honestly, I didn’t know it was that far out. But I kept the form and it kept going in and my teammates kept giving it to me.”
One of those teammates who kept feeding Barber was sophomore guard KK Sanders, who finished with 9 points and 7 assists. She was strong on the defensive end, swiping 6 steals, which led to fast break points and kept the momentum in Rutgers’ favor.
“It helps the whole team out,” Parker said on Sanders’ performance. “When the point guard has a good game, we all have a good game and we continue to play together and the point guard continues to lead us. That’s exactly how we get W’s (wins)”.
Their defensive effort is what ultimately led Rutgers to victory, as they forced 19 turnovers, had 13 steals and 10 blocks. Penn State consistently struggled to get open looks and shot just 26.7 percent from the field and only 20.8 percent from three-point range.
“Just getting stops. Helping each other, helping the helper,” Barber said on the team’s defensive effort. “Getting together and doing it as one.”
This win proved to the Knights they can play in the Big Ten and will give them confidence going forward in conference play.
Stringer also keyed in on how having more time with the team has helped her as a coach.
“The more we play together, the more you can look at a player. I’m beginning to read them a lot better. That’s good for me and the assistant coaches and it’s good for the players,” she said. “We’re getting better and that’s the difference.”