Rutgers dominates Iona at home for second consecutive win

It ended with a 25-point margin of victory, but it was never even close.

The Rutgers women’s basketball team set the tone early against Iona, making a 7-0 run from the opening tip and carrying that momentum to close the first quarter with a 29-10 lead. 

The Gaels pushed back in the second quarter, but it wasn’t enough as the Scarlet Knights outscored Iona, 21-9, in the second half to pull away with a 58-33 win Wednesday night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Junior guard Tyler Scaife poured in 20 points, with 16 of them coming in the first two quarters, to give Rutgers its second consecutive win to start a five-game homestand at the RAC.

“I was real focused today and I think that had a lot to do with my shots droppin’,” Scaife said from the dais in the Media Room at the RAC after the win. “I was in a good zone, I just came off a pretty good game last game (versus Arkansas), so I’m kinda feeling it right now. And the ball just dropped for me.”

Scaife dropped 24 points against the Razorbacks on Sunday, feeding into the rhythm she referenced postgame. The junior now has her average up to 15.4 points per game on the season, the highest in her three-year career in Piscataway

On the other end of the floor, the Knights continued to apply stick-em-like defense, limiting Iona to 24 percent shooting on 13-of-54 from the field after holding Arkansas to 25 percent from the floor on Sunday.

Head coach C. Vivian Stringer added to her school record with her 437th win in her 21st season on the Banks.

Stringer, always a stickler for sloppy play, said she was happy with the defense, but disappointed in the offense down the stretch. 

Rutgers scored only six points in the fourth quarter after finishing with 29 in the first period.

“We did all this scoring and then we get to the fourth quarter — we’ve gotta police ourselves. We have higher standards,” Stringer said. “The Connecticuts of the world do not get bored, the Notre Dames of the world do not get bored. The higher-level teams do not get bored. The average teams always get bored and that’s when many times they trip.”

As an example of just how stoudt the Scarlet and White defense was, Gaels junior guard Marina Lizarazu entered the game averaging 14.5 points.

Rutgers reduced Iona’s top scorer to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting thanks to suffocating defense from the backcourt. 

“For the most part I feel like we followed the scouting report,” Scaife said. “I mean, honestly, I wish (Lizarazu) wouldn’t have scored (at all), but she scored. We did play her more aggressive but … we gotta do better.”

Senior guard Briyona Canty made her presence known with a season-high nine points to go with four rebounds, four assists and two steals to fill the stat sheet

A knee injury hampered Canty last season, but she appears to be back to 100 percent, one-third of the way into her senior year.

“I feel I’m getting better every game. I’m watching the film and looking at my mistakes, so I think I’m getting better every game,” Canty said. “As a point guard, I think that’s what makes point guards special is they can make other people better. And scoring just comes with it, you get your shots when you get 'em.”

Senior center Rachel Hollivay went sixes wild on Wednesday night, scoring six points, pulling down six rebounds and swatting away six shots to ensure Iona cutters never made it to the rim. The six blocks move Hollivay into third place in school history. 

The Columbus, Mississippi, native intimated that she has been working on that facet of her game, while explaining that she has been working on her craft in all facets.

“Coach (Stringer) has got me locked in on defense," she said. "First I was just going through scoring stuff, but I’m not gonna get scoring all the time so I have to get rebounds, I have to move my feet, I have to stay in the game, stay outta foul trouble. So me getting to my timing better on the block shots, I’m getting better.”

If Hollivay can continue to police the paint and Canty can ride the upswing in her production, Rutgers could be a tough team to beat this season.

That statement bodes well in Piscataway, where the Knights are 67-14 over the course of the last five seasons. 

“Our mindset is that we have a killer instinct right from the beginning. And we’re locked in and we’re intense, right from the beginning," Stringer said. “And we we’re stingy with the defense. We expect to execute the way we must execute offensively … We believe we can stay with anybody in the country.”

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

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