Showing versus Tigers "a joke"
PRINCETON — If the Rutgers women's basketball team's 60-50 victory over Princeton Saturday was a joke, no one was laughing.
The Scarlet Knights blew the hapless Tigers out of the water by nearly 50 points last season, but Saturday's turnover-filled affair at Jadwin Gymnasium was really anyone's game from start to finish.
"It's a joke. I don't even want to talk about it, if I didn't have to talk … about it I wouldn't," said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. "It's the biggest god-darned joke. I don't even know — it's like we left our common sense, any level of defense or offense or any level of pride home. No, it wasn't home. Because if it was home it would be in the home of the Scarlet Knights."
The Tigers pounced on every loose ball they could find.
RU turned the ball over 21 times — the fifth time in nine games this season the Scarlet Knights turned the ball over at least 20 times in a game. The Tigers also held a 41-30 advantage in rebounds.
RU committed 23 personal fouls, contributing to 17 of Princeton's points, but were buoyed by their shooting. The Tigers shot horrendously — opening the half 2-of-15 from the floor — and finished with an even 30 shooting percentage, compared to the Knights' 40.7 percent.
"I've never seen a thing like this in all my life," Stringer said. "So we're all going to wear glasses the next time we play, or we're going to wear contacts, you can just count on that. Glasses or contacts, one way or the other, we're going to have them on, because obviously we don't see.
"At the highest levels, at the championship levels, I've had teams that have had five turnovers. You know, heck, there's only one person on our team that has more assists to our teammates than to the other people. The rest of us are bandits. We're out there killing each other."
Down the stretch, RU leaned on two of its seniors to escape the jam at Jadwin.
Guard Brittany Ray and center Rashidat Junaid, in her first big playing time since Southern California, led the charge for the Scarlet Knights in the second half.
Junaid scored eight of her 12 points in the second half, and finished with seven rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
"I just wanted to get out there and rebound and do what it took for my team to win," Junaid said. "I saw that we were struggling offensively and defensively and I just wanted to get out there and give it my all."
Ray finished with a game-high 20 points, nine of which came from the free throw line. Both seniors shot 50 percent from the floor and combined for nine of RU's 15 steals.
Though they started off with a bang in the second half, fueled by seven points from Ray, the Knights quickly cooled as Princeton inched closer and closer.
"I don't think teams are afraid of us. I think we have to get out there and step on their throat early," Junaid said. "Teams don't fear us, they're going to come out and they're going to play their best games against us. … We have to use games like these to our advantage, and we didn't today."
RU pulled away again, only to have the Tigers cut the lead to three with just under eight minutes to play.
But a timely bucket from Junaid and sharp foul shooting from Ray helped the Knights ice the game.
For 15 minutes of the first half, it looked like Temple all over again. RU was down by double digits for most of the first, before mounting a 16-2 run to finish the half. The Scarlet Knights held Princeton scoreless until the final minute of the half, entering the intermission with a narrow 28-27 advantage, with the Tigers' only points during the stretch coming from the free throw line.