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Rutgers aims to boost morale in road games

<p>Senior wing Kahleah Copper said that Rutgers needs to bring more fight. The Knights are currently1-6 in road games.</p>

Senior wing Kahleah Copper said that Rutgers needs to bring more fight. The Knights are currently1-6 in road games.

It is common in sports for a team to prefer to play on its home court rather than in a hostile environment on the road.

Playing in a familiar setting in front of the home fans and sticking to a known routine without dealing with the stress of traveling generally leads to more success in terms of the win-loss record.

That has certainly been the case for the Rutgers women’s basketball team (12-7, 3-4) thus far this season, as their home and road splits make it known.

The Scarlet Knights have reeled off eight wins in a row at home to bring their record at the Rutgers Athletic Center to 8-1, while having fared just 1-6 in true road games following their 59-48 defeat Tuesday night at No. 18 Michigan State.

They are 3-0 in neutral contests, as they won each game in the U.S. Virgin Islands en route to a Paradise Jam Tournament championship earlier in the season.

For now, as Big Ten play is underway, the Knights are looking to replicate their home dominance and translate it into success on the road in conference games.

“It’s always nice to play at home,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer, following the team’s 60-40 home victory over Arkansas at the RAC on Dec. 6. “It’s more familiar, and there’s a lot less traveling. Any team is always happy to play at home within the confines of what’s comfortable.”

In home games, Rutgers has outscored their opponents 569-426, but in their road games, the Knights have been outscored 490-415.

They've scored a season high 78 points twice this season, both times coming on the road, against St. Joseph’s and Ohio State.

With more Big Ten games away from Piscataway coming up on the schedule, Rutgers will have to rely on some of its veteran leaders to keep playing efficient basketball in hostile venues.

The trio of performers who have played exceptionally well regardless of where the games are held composed of seniors Rachel Hollivay and Kahleah Copper and junior Tyler Scaife are essential to the Knights aspirations of winning on the road.

Copper is averaging 16.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, including double-doubles in four of the past seven games.

Hollivay had her best game of the season in last week’s home victory over Illinois, in which she posted 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Their prowess in the frontcourt has set up Scaife to have plenty of success in the backcourt, as the guard is averaging 17.5 points per game and shooting at nearly a 53 percent clip from the field.

The play of this trio gives the Knights some hope moving forward that they can start playing winning basketball outside the Banks.

“They make everything a lot easier and give us a lot of chances for second chance shots, getting into our fast break offense with them rebounding,” Scaife said after the team’s home win against Illinois on Jan. 13. “It’s great to have them averaging double-doubles … it’s pretty special.”

Rutgers returns home to play Ohio State on Sunday at the RAC.

They have 11 conference games remaining in the season, with six at home and five on the road.

Before the season, they spoke of how they knew each conference game would be tough no matter where it is played.

The Knights know they will have to turn things around quickly to make a push up the conference standings, where they currently sit in ninth place.

“We just have to learn to come at each game with a lot of fight, because we know that in the Big Ten, you have to bring it every night,” Copper said. “We’re gonna be fine.”

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

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