Knights look to remain hot at home against Iowa
Coming off its most impressive victory of the season, the Rutgers women’s basketball team will look to keep the momentum going when Iowa comes to Piscataway for the 7 p.m. tip-off on Tuesday night.
The Scarlet Knights (6-13, 3-3) are currently on a three-game winning streak at home, which includes two Big Ten upsets over Penn State and Michigan State. The Hawkeyes (11-7, 2-3) are coming off a 16-point loss to No. 3 Maryland and will look to rebound against Rutgers.
In their last outing, the Knights came back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to stun Michigan State. However, that victory was following two consecutive road losses, including a 37-point loss against Illinois. While Rutgers has been a very strong home team as of late, they have struggled greatly on the road and struggled overall with consistency.
If the Knights play at the level they did against the Spartans, they will be one of the best teams in the Big Ten. But they are still trying to piece everything together and play at a high level every game.
“We’re a team that’s been up and down but what’s important is that we demonstrate to ourselves that we can be really up when the big games are there.” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “Hopefully that will carry over to the rest of the games.”
One thing Stringer thinks that will add consistency is continued contribution from the bench. “We have nine altogether that came in and did a heck of a job,” she said of the bench players’ effort against Michigan State. “It allowed the veteran players to watch that and make a difference.”
With a roster that returned very little scoring from last season, Rutgers has seen a dip in overall offensive production this season. However, they have not taken a step back defensively, as they rank towards the top of the conference in defensive categories.
Sophomore point guard KK Sanders has been the team’s best defender this year and ranks third in the Big Ten with 2.4 steals/game. However, she has greatly improved in conference play, as she is averaging 3.2 steals/game against Big Ten opposition.
“Rutgers is known for defense. That’s what we live off of,” said junior guard Shrita Parker. “You can thank (C. Vivian Stringer), she’s the one.”
Aside from the defensive end, Parker is the team’s leading scorer and set a career-high with 20 points against Michigan State. She has been transitioning into the shooting guard role since the emergence of KK Sanders as the starting point guard. Stringer has said that her role is to be a pure scorer and she has responded to the call, averaging over 15 points in Big Ten play.
Against the Hawkeyes, the focus will be on the frontcourt, as Iowa boasts one of the best forwards in the conference in Megan Gustafson. The sophomore is averaging a double-double with 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. She will be a matchup problem, as Rutgers has been rotating frontcourt players Desiree Keeling, Victoria Harris and Jordan Wallace, not being able to get consistent production from any of them.
Junior wing Kandiss Barber, who had the game-winning points against Michigan State, says that the Knights are only focused on what they can do to improve and to win games.
“We can’t worry about what they’re doing,” she said. “We just gotta make sure we keep ourselves calm and collected.”
Iowa also happens to be where Stringer coached before coming to Rutgers in 1995. She is not focused on storylines, though, just her team getting the result they want. The Hall of Fame coach is all business for this one.
“They’re a great team. We need to work on (maintaining consistency).”