Rutgers travels to New York to face former Big East foe St. Johns
The Rutgers womens basketball team hits the road this week as they are set to play St John's and Houston in the coming days. Their first game is in Queens on Wednesday night against the Red Storm (4-3), who are coming off a 64-46 victory over Lafayette college.
The Scarlet Knights (2-7) are looking to get back on track after a double-overtime loss to James Madison on Monday. While Rutgers had some good stretches in that game, head coach C. Vivian Stringer is not pleased with the way her team has been playing, especially the way it has been shooting the ball. The Knights are shooting just 24.5 percent from deep this season and put up 21 threes against the the Blue Devils.
“Anybody that’s shooting (24.5 percent) from the three-point line has no business shooting threes,” she said Monday night. “And that is consistent in games and in practice. We chart it in practice. What are the odds of (shooting the ball well)?”
Stringer is also frustrated with the team’s inability to make cuts, attack the basket and make the right passes to the cutters.
“We’ve gotta get better in our ball-handling, better in the decision making, being able to handle the ball with defense in your face and being able to see,” she said.
Junior forward Kandiss Barber led Rutgers on Monday with 22 points and has been its best player as of late.
Stringer praised Barber's ability to attack the basket and do the right things with the ball in her hands. While she will need to step up late in games, Barber is aware of her added responsibilities.
“Just keep us working, keep us together, keep us going,” the team’s leading scorer said.
She will need to continue not only her strong offensive play against the Red Storm, but also bring it on defense, as St. John’s boasts 5-foot-11-inch forward Akina Wellere, who is shooting 52 percent from three on the season. Barber is the only player with size and athletic ability to cover her.
Another player surging as of late for the Knights has been sophomore center Desiree Keeling. She set a career high with 21 points against James Madison and has proven to be dominant — when she can stay out of foul trouble. Early in the season, Keeling and sophomore center Victoria Harris often found themselves in foul trouble and Rutgers was at a disadvantage in the paint.
“I just know (how) to demand the ball,” Keeling said. “Seel, cause coach was telling us early in the season we gotta seel and demand the ball and just finish.”
If Keeling can continue to shoot 83.3 percent from the field like she did on Monday, she can change the entire offensive philosophy of the team going forward. When Keeling establishes herself as a force on offense, there is less pressure on the rest of the team to force shots because they know they can run the offense through her.
Keeling will have a challenge, though, as she may be the one to guard Red Storm forward Jade Walker. The 6-foot-1-inch senior from Maplewood, N.J, has the frame of a power forward or center, and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays outside the paint. She is second on the team in scoring and leads St. John’s in both rebounding and blocked shots.
The breakout performances by Barber and Keeling are examples of what Stringer has been looking for, as the loss of junior guard Tyler Scaife to a redshirt season has left the team without a dominant player on the court.
“What we need is more people that take charge and assume the responsibility instead of looking for the excuse of what you can’t do,” Stringer said.
And finally, when asked what her message to the team was heading into the brief two-game road trip?
“I don’t have anything to say right now," she said.