Jeune, Sanders lead shorthanded Rutgers past Seton Hall
In a game where two key players, including starting point guard Shrita Parker, were out with injuries, the Rutgers women’s basketball team did just about everything it could with a limited roster. It turned out to be just enough, as the Scarlet Knights earned their most impressive win of the season, defeating Seton Hall by a score of 53-45. It was the Knights' 900th win in program history and it came in impressive fashion.
Rutgers has made a habit of starting off strong at home this year and did just that Tuesday night. The Knights (3-9) strung together smart offensive play and aggressive defense to put themselves ahead 10-2 early on. However, the Pirates (6-4), erased it just as quickly to knot the game up at 10. Rutgers was able to get two quick baskets to close out the quarter and take a 14-10 lead into the second quarter.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer has stressed winning quarters this season, and they did just the opposite in the second period. The Pirates closed the second quarter on a dominant 16-2 run and were up by double digits when the horn sounded.
Facing a 29-18 halftime deficit, the Knights needed a spark to get themselves back in the game.
Sophomore guard Aliyah Jeune delivered.
She caught fire from the field and scored 11 of Rutgers’ next 13 points and got the Knights right back into the thick of things. She finished the night with 18 points, leading Rutgers.
“It was just me staying aggressive and it was KK (Sanders) just seeing me,” Jeune said of her run in the third quarter. “She knows what good positions I can be in to score. We really played together today.”
As the game wound down, Aliyah Jeune was depended on once again by her teammates. Rutgers has not been able to shoot the three effectively this season, but Aliyah Jeune stepped up with 1:44 remaining in the game and drained one from deep to put the Knights up by 1 point. They would not relinquish that lead.
Coming off a loss against Houston where they had a 10 point lead with under five minutes remaining and blew it, the Knights faced another crunch time situation.
This time, they did not let up.
“I thought that they showed great courage and resilience. And never say die attitude,” Stringer said. “I was really proud of the way the team played today”
The real star of the game was sophomore guard KK Sanders. With Parker out, Sanders stepped up as the primary point guard, playing 38 minutes, just two short of playing the entire game.
Her stat line? She messed around and nearly got a triple-double, putting in 17 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. All three of those figures were career highs for her. However, following her breakout performance, she credited her teammates for coming together in the absence of Parker and freshman guard Kate Hill.
“I think the whole team stepped up,” Sanders said. “I think it’s key that all of us stay together while we’re out so many players due to injuries or whatever it may be. We just have to stay strong and play together and I felt like we all played together. I can’t get assists if they don’t make shots.”
It was a huge win for this team, as Seton Hall is an in-state rival and just last season the Pirates beat Rutgers by nearly 30 points. Stringer was clearly as happy as she’s been with the team all season and the players, notably Aliyah Jeune, showed lots of pride in each other for the way they played as a cohesive unit.
“We had to just step up and play hard and it was a great team effort today," Jeune said.
For updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.