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Rutgers opens season in Philadelphia at St. Joseph's

<p>Senior guard Cynthia Hernandez looks to lead Rutgers from beyond the arc after shooting 42.2% last season. The Knights look to improve from three this season after struggling in 2014.</p>

Senior guard Cynthia Hernandez looks to lead Rutgers from beyond the arc after shooting 42.2% last season. The Knights look to improve from three this season after struggling in 2014.

As the preseason preparations start to wind down, the Rutgers women’s basketball team believes it is ready to take the next step forward in building from last year’s inaugural season in the Big Ten.

The Scarlet Knights have spent the bulk of the offseason working on integrating a new mix of freshmen to play with their seniors, along with trying to improve their outside shooting.

Three-point shooting was a problem area for the Knights' last season and they have made it a point of emphasis to become more efficient in that phase of the game in year two.

Rutgers averaged just 2.3 three-point field goals per game last season, which ranked them 338 out of 343 Division I teams. They plan to get off to a better start this season in that regard as they prepare to play two road contests to start their year.

The season opens Friday in Philadelphia against St. Joseph’s and continues on Monday on a trip to in-state rival Seton Hall.

These games should give them good opportunities to implement some new players and give the coaches an understanding of the areas that need to be improved upon as the season goes along.

“As I begin to think about how to make our Scarlet Knights better, there are certain categories where we need to see us get better statistically to make a difference,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “We know we were one of the lowest teams in the country in three-point shooting percentage, and we have worked hard to improve in that area and make sure that we can make three point shots."

On a team that has struggled with outside shooting, the most prolific Knight from beyond the arc last season was Cynthia Hernandez.

The senior guard led the team with a 42.2-percent clip from 3-point range, knocking down 27-of-64 of her attempts.

She is expected to see an increase in playing time this season after transferring from Ventura College (California), where she played for two years.

Her shooting ability should spur Rutgers in their quest to improve its 3-point percentage in a player who can also help teach everyone some of that technique.

“We know that 3-point shots are a big thing, so we’ve been working on them every day to get better at them,” Hernandez said. “We’re shooting a lot of threes in practice and I think we will see some better results this year.”

The message from a senior leader like Hernandez and the coaching staff has already gotten through to the younger players on the team.

Freshman guard Ashli Jeune redshirted last season and has already noticed a change in training from last year.

“As a team, we have all been working on our shots and we all want to be better 3-point shooters,” she said. “Our goal in every practice is to make shots. Coach Stringer puts a big emphasis on it in practice. We need to make our shots and be more efficient.”

The Knights are ready to get their season underway.

They opened last season against St. Joseph’s, beating the Hawks, 76-52.

Junior guard Tyler Scaife led all scorers that game with 23 points, and her and the rest of the team’s efforts to improve their shooting in the offseason has the coaching staff excited.

“I have to calm myself down at this point of the year because I’m anxious. I want things to get done yesterday,” Stringer said. “We have outstanding coaches paying attention to the details and the players understand what it takes to function at the highest levels.”

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

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