Rutgers rolls past Illinois on strength of junior's scoring prowess
Tyler Scaife’s star continues to rise.
Wednesday night the junior point guard dropped 27 points while shooting 78.5 percent and the Rutgers women’s basketball team expanded Illinois’ winless streak in the Big Ten and on the road, handling the Illini (7-9, 0-5) 67-54 for the Scarlet Knights eighth-straight win at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Scaife scored 14 points in the first quarter en route to 11-of-14 shooting for the game but she was not alone on the offensive end. Seniors Rachel Hollivay and Kahleah Copper both notched double-doubles to push the Knights back over .500 in the conference with the 13-point win.
“They make everything a lot easier,” Scaife said of Hollivay and Copper’s contributions. “They give us a lot of chances for second chance shots and getting to our fast break offense. So, it's great to have them (getting) double-doubles. I mean it's pretty special.”
The Little Rock, Arkansas native is averaging 23.7 points per game over her last three contests to overtake Copper for the team’s top scoring average, now up to 17.9 points per game.
The Knights (12-5, 3-2) and their junior guard came out firing to start, leading 22-9 after the first quarter before ultimately winning the game by an identical margin as the Illini struggled all night to find any kind of shooting rhythm.
The visitors shot 38 percent from the field and Rutgers refused to relinquish the lead, controlling the tempo for the entirety of the contest. The Knights outrebounded Illinois 40-22 with Copper and Hollivay combining for 25 boards between the pair and the home team lead the entire game, absent one tie at 2-2 in the opening minute.
Hollivay dropped 14 points and grabbed 14 more rebounds, but likely her most impressive performance was on the defensive end. The senior center said her success on defense fed her fire on the offensive end of the floor.
“It just made me wanna be more active,” Hollivay said postgame. “Since I was active on defense it made me wanna be more active on offense as well.”
Illini center Chatrice White entered the tilt averaging 17.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
Hollivay all but eliminated White as an offensive threat, holding the sophomore to 13 points and four rebounds on 42.6 percent from the field.
“I watched film and saw (White) just stays down (on the low block) and never comes up,” the senior center said. “So everytime when she got in front of me I would just move her up.”
Copper finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three assists for secure her fourth double-double in her last five games.
The Philadelphia native’s point total allowed her to surpass former Rutgers star, current WNBA All-Star and New Jersey basketball legend Epiphany Prince for ninth place on the school’s all-time scoring list, according to Rutgers Athletics.
Rutgers will not have much time to bask in the glory of their eighth consecutive victory at the RAC with Nebraska Michigan waiting in Lincoln on Saturday. The Knights have not fared nearly as well on the road as they have at home this year, going 1-4 away from Piscataway.
But Scaife believes if the team can stick to what their head coach is preaching success is possible against any team.
And if she can continue the hot shooting starts, it becomes even more probable.
“Last month, Coach (C. Vivian) Stringer was saying that we need to start off strong so I try to make sure my mind is ready to start off strong, give our team a boost so we can get into our defense.”
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