Rutgers looks to restart win streak at RAC hosting Iona
Win the games you are supposed to win, and the rest will sort itself out.
It’s an old slogan that rarely rang more true than for the Rutgers women's basketball team regarding the Scarlet Knights' next two scheduled games.
The Knights (6-3) will take on Iona (2-5) on Wednesday before matching up with Savannah State (2-6) on Sunday, with both games coming at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Scarlet and White won last year's matchup, 66-58, in New Rochelle, when senior wing Kahleah Copper poured in a team-high 19 points.
Rutgers will try to build on its 20-point win over Arkansas last Sunday, now with a legitimate shot to assemble a three-game winning streak before hosting SEC powerhouse Louisiana State at the RAC next Saturday.
But the first order of business will be the game with the Gaels.
Iona takes the ride down the New Jersey Turnpike to Piscataway pushing for back-to-back wins over schools from Central Jersey after defeating Rider, 59-46, on Sunday.
Junior guard Tyler Scaife is coming off a 24-point performance versus the Razorbacks where the Little Rock native continued her near-spotless shooting from the free throw line, knocking down all four of her attempts from the charity stripe.
Scaife has missed just one free throw in 29 tries in her junior season, ranking second in the nation in free throw percentage (96.6), according to NCAA.com.
The 5-foot-7 guard believes that getting to the line early in games allows her to get into a shooting groove from the field.
“I was attacking the rim early on,” Scaife said after the 60-40 win over the team from her home state. “I got to the free throw line and I feel like that helped me to get into a good rhythm for the first quarter and then after that the ball just kept dropping.”
Scaife and the rest of the Rutgers backcourt will have their hands full on the defensive end with Gaels junior guard Marina Lizarazu.
What makes Lizarazu so dangerous to defend is not only her ability to fill up the cup, but also her knack for finding open shooters after she draws defenders on drives through the lane.
A native of Madrid, Lizarazu competed for the Spanish under-20 team over the summer.
She began her career at Texas Tech before leaving Lubbock to transfer to Iona for her sophomore season.
In her junior year, Lizarazu is averaging 14.5 points and 3.9 assists per game after finishing 13th in the country with 6.3 assists per contest a season ago.
Luckily for the Knights, they seem to be picking it up on the defensive end.
Rutgers returned to the type of suffocating defense that has been a staple of head coach C. Vivian Stringer on Sunday, stifling the Razorbacks' shooters with hands in their face all afternoon.
The result was a paltry 25 percent shooting performance from the floor for the Hogs.
“If you look at the other boxscores, this isn’t the first time,” Stringer said postgame on Sunday. “There’s a number of teams that have 25, 32, 28 percent. I mean this is not unusual for Rutgers basketball.”
Stringer continues to put emphasis on improvement in 3-point shooting for the Knights, while continuing to push her team to keep attacking. Rutgers is converting 35.6 percent of its shots from downtown after hitting only 31.6 percent last season.
For the winningest head coach in school history (436), the recipe for a title contender is not complete without efficiency from behind the arc.
“I just want us to be mindful that we can attack,” Stringer said. “And if we can put all this together — offensive rebounding, attacking and you can think of our guards that can get to the rim — and then continue to shoot. I think that we can put it all together because anyone who watched basketball will always say, ‘The Scarlet Knights, the one thing they are missing is the ability to knock those shots down from the outside.'”
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