Strong post play carries Knights' sloppy victory at RAC
A quick glance at the Rutgers women's basketball team's 60-39 thrashing of Providence Saturday afternoon would make it appear that the squad got the tune-up it needed in preparation for No. 2 Connecticut.
But in the eyes of head coach C. Vivian Stringer, there is still work to be done due in part by distractions.
"There were a lot of things, but there's no question that they were thinking about Wednesday," Stringer said. "I wish that I could put Wednesday in a vacuum, and that's the way it is. There's no question that they were thinking about [UConn]. I think they were, but they may say different."
Junior guard Khadijah Rushdan did say differently following the victory.
"Oh no, I don't think so," Rushdan said when asked if the team was looking ahead. "I know myself, I try to make sure and emphasize to everybody that we've got to focus on the game that's in front of us and that we can't take anybody lightly, so I don't necessarily think that people were looking ahead toward Wednesday."
Whatever the cause of the sloppy outing for the Scarlet Knights (12-6, 5-0), they were still able to leave the Louis Brown Athletic Center with a 21-point victory.
The Knights built their lead to 23 — their largest lead of the game — with a free throw by freshman forward Briana Hutchen at the 3:49 mark, displaying the team's knack for getting to the charity stripe in the game.
The team got to the line 25 times in the contest, with 17 of those attempts coming from the Knights' frontcourt of Hutchen, sophomore Monique Oliver and junior Chelsey Lee.
Though the trio only shot a combined 58 percent from the line, Oliver and Lee managed to finish the game with 15 points apiece.
Lee's 12 rebounds also gave the Parkway Academy (Fla.) product her third consecutive double- double.
"We've shown that we can hit high-post shots. It opens up down low for one of us to go one-on-one," Lee said. "It really opens up the game, and it allows us to get more touches."
The Friars (9-9, 2-4) were held in check on the boards, as the Knights snagged 39 rebounds to just 32 for Providence, which came into the game averaging 44.3 a game.
Even with a height disadvantage, consistency in the post is becoming a mantra of Stringer's squad. According to Rushdan, who had nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, the Oliver and Lee tandem are a sure x-factor.
"Throughout the years and throughout the season, it was either the Scarlet Knights getting great play from their guards or either getting great play from the post," Rushdan said. "It was never a time when everybody was playing well. It's definitely important and definitely a good thing that the post has come around and been able to shoot now and get rebounds and finish."
With the win, the squad stayed perfect in Big East play and in the process, extended its winning streak to five games — four of which were conference victories.
Still, the team was shaky for much of the contest in its half-court sets, as it went on to turn the ball over 17 times in the game.
"There were a lot of instances out there where we didn't really know we were into, and I'll take responsibility for that," Rushdan said. "Being a point guard, just making sure that I communicate with everybody just so everybody can hear me, so that it's a little bit better out there."
With the brief departure of Rushdan due to a shoulder injury, the Knights set the tone with the post play of Lee and Oliver in the first half. The duo accounted for 18 of the squad's 32 points, sending the Knights into the locker room with a 32-21 halftime lead.
Still, it was not until 12 minutes into the contest when the team started to mesh, as 11 first half turnovers and countless missed layups made for an unhappy Stringer.
The Knights did manage to keep the game tied or within two points in that span despite the poor play, but the Friars are no Connecticut.
Stringer knows better than anyone that a mirror start against the Huskies on Wednesday night at the RAC will not be as kind to her team.
"Of course I'm concerned," Stringer said. "I was really irritated. We've been notorious for deciding whether or not an opponent is really going to push us."