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Junior improves all-around game for Rutgers

Tyler Scaife has achieved plenty during her first two seasons at Rutgers.

The junior guard was named the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year in 2013 after leading all freshmen in the conference with 14.5 points per game.

She followed that up with a strong performance during the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s inaugural season in the Big Ten, starting in all 33 games for the Scarlet Knights and being named an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten member by the coaches and media.

But the Little Rock, Arkansas, native has dealt with more than just the conference change in her time on the Banks. She has adjusted to a new lifestyle in New Jersey.

“It’s a lot faster pace up here than the south,” she said. “It’s a lot colder and there’s more snow, but my teammates and the coaching staff make it a lot easier on me. It’s been a good transition.”

Scaife enters her third season with the Knights as a top-scoring threat for her team and has worked hard on the defensive end to become an efficient two-way player.

She has received praise from head coach C. Vivian Stringer for her quick development as a player and leadership for the Knights. Because of her coach’s preferred style of play, Scaife feels the transition has been as smooth as possible.

“(Stringer) recruits guards who are quick and can play with a fast pace and score, which is what I like to do,” she said. “I feel like I’ve fit right in here.”

Scaife has continued in the Knights tradition of strong guard play.

Coming to Piscataway after twice winning the Arkansas Girls Basketball Player of the Year award, she was also Rutgers’ best free throw shooter last season by registering a 72-percent clip from the charity stripe.

She has become more of a well-rounded player, working on her rebounding and passing to go along with her scoring prowess.

The coaching staff has noticed her improvement and believes she is ready for her best season yet.

“I’m extremely happy with Tyler this year,” Stringer said. “She is very committed on the defensive side of it and also committed to working on the consistency of her shot … She is always intently focused, and I think she will be more than a scoring threat by playing at the point guard spot. I expect great things from her because she is in great shape and she is ready.”

Her teammates have also taken notice of her improvement over the summer.

Senior guard Cynthia Hernandez played alongside Scaife last year after transferring in and has seen firsthand the quick bursts of scoring she can bring to any game.

“Tyler is very, very good,” she said. “She knows how to attack the basket and is great with her shot from mid-range, and now she can shoot threes. I’m pretty sure she can be unstoppable when she’s on her game.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of Scaife’s game is her ability to play better as the games get bigger.

Last season, she averaged 14.8 points per game, but 16.0 points per game against nationally ranked opponents and 18.5 points per game in the team’s two NCAA Tournament games last season.

She also recorded a season-high four steals against No. 6 North Carolina in the thrilling 96-93 double-overtime loss last season.

Playing in the Big Ten leads to high stakes games nearly every night. 

Scaife uses these games and playoff match-ups to elevate her performance when the team needs it most.

“When the level of the competition level rises, you have to be on another level when you play in those games,” she said. “In the NCAA Tournament, it was a win or go home situation, so you really want to win and play your best, and that’s what I always try to do.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow @Mike_OSully2 and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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