Rutgers heads to University Park to face Penn State
After suffering its first defeat in more than a month, the Rutgers women’s basketball team responded with a hard-fought win on Saturday. Now it looks to keep the momentum going tonight on the road.
The No. 25 Scarlet Knights (17-3, 5-1) head to University Park, Pennsylvania to take on Penn State (11-8, 2-4). With a win, the team will secure its 13th victory in 14 games.
This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season, as Rutgers previously defeated the Lady Lions 70-65 at home on Jan. 6. That game saw fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife match her career high with 29 points. The Knights expect to lean on Scaife again tonight, as she has led the team in scoring in 18 out of 20 games so far, and ranks fourth in the conference with 21.1 points per game.
Scaife discussed how the team hopes to perform differently than it did in its first matchup with the Lions.
“We’ll be looking to finish strong,” she said. “We were up by 12 with 3 or 4 minutes left, and we got careless on defense. We let them hit a few big shots that made the game tight. We’ve been working on that in practice.”
Rutgers is enjoying a prolific offensive year that ranks among one of its best under head coach C. Vivian Stringer, as its 68.3 points per game is currently the fourth-best in Stringer’s 23 years in Piscataway.
Meanwhile, Scaife has chalked it up to a different scheme that Stringer is running.
“It’s more of a free offense,” Scaife said. “We get in transition a lot, which allows us to score more points. Also we have a lot of offensive-minded people on the team, so everybody likes to score. When we have people with that mindset, of course we’re going to put up more points.”
After entering the AP poll at No. 21 for their first top-25 ranking all season, the Knights promptly lost 47-33 at Purdue last Wednesday, ending an 11-game winning streak. They then came back home and took care of business with an 80-70 overtime win against Minnesota on Saturday.
Scaife led the team in scoring with 25 points, and junior forward Stasha Carey scored a season-high 23 points, while recording her second double-double of the year.
Coming off its first loss in quite some time, it was important for Rutgers to regroup and come away with a win. Now, keeping the momentum up and starting a new winning streak is even more important.
“I think the win last game was great, and it does bring a lot of momentum to this game,” Carey said. “We need to stay focused and worry about executing on our behalf.”
The Knights have been famous for their '55 Press' defense under Stringer, and this season has been no exception. Most recently, they forced the Golden Gophers into committing a season-high 24 turnovers and held them to their second-lowest point total so far this season.
This continues a trend of them holding opponents to low point totals, as their opponents’ 54.9 points per game is the tenth-lowest in the nation.
Despite its tenacious defense — whose 255 steals rank first nationwide and lead the Big Ten by a wide margin — Rutgers had an anomalously low steal total in its previous matchup with Penn State. The Lady Lions turned the ball over 19 times, 10 of which where steals, marking just the sixth time all season that the Knights forced less than 20 turnovers.
Penn State will look to counter Rutgers' defensive pressure with its own offense. The Lions have three players who average more than 10 points per game and combined for a majority of the offense during their previous meeting with the Knights.
Juniors Teniya Page (16.6) and Amari Carter (15.1) and sophomore Jaida Travascio-Green (12.1) scored 53 of Penn State’s 65 points, and are all in the top 25 in scoring in the Big Ten. In addition, Carter’s 18.5 points per game in conference matchups puts her at fifth, one rank below Scaife.
Despite the Lions’ offensive stars, Rutgers is more focused on itself and how it can perform. According to the team, if it executes like it has all season long, it should come away with the victory.
“We just want to execute, make sure to take care of ourselves and do what we need to do,” Scaife said. “We’re focused on Penn State, but if we do what we need to do, I think we’ll be fine.”
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