Rutgers falls to Chattanooga in season opener

<p>Junior guard Shrita Parker dribbles the ball in Rutgers' season-opening&nbsp;66-53 loss to Chattanooga Friday afternoon. She led the Knights with 10 points.</p>

Junior guard Shrita Parker dribbles the ball in Rutgers' season-opening 66-53 loss to Chattanooga Friday afternoon. She led the Knights with 10 points.

The Rutgers women’s basketball team did not get off to the start it wanted.

The Scarlet Knights (0-1) fell to Chattanooga in their season opener at the Rutgers Athletic Center by a score of 66-53.

Junior guard Shrita Parker led the Knights with 10 points and added five assists and three rebounds. Khadaizha Sanders and Aliyah Jeune also added 8 points apiece.

Rutgers started strong, jumping out to a 10-7 advantage. Chattanooga found a groove soon thereafter and never looked back. By the end of the first quarter, the Lady Mocs had a 19-16 lead and they would not relinquish it.

Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer was not happy with the overall performance, but was not completely discouraged with the team’s effort.

“We gotta get better,” the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach said. “We got a lot of work. But I’m encouraged based off of the scrimmages that we had this week”.

The Knights shot a respectable 40.4 percent from the floor, and the Lady Mocs were not much better at 41.1 percent. Chattanooga missed a lot of easy layups but then made up for it with endless drives to the basket resulting in points.

Junior guard Chelsey Shumpert led them with 18 points and was one of four players in double figures. Chattanooga was pests on the boards and was also given many open looks by a struggling Rutgers defense.

“There were some things that we did well,” Stringer said. “We have some other problems that are major breakdowns. I would be more disappointed defensively.”

Shrita Parker was the top returning scorer and was the only Rutgers player in double figures. She spoke on the added responsibility she has with Tyler Sciafe out for the season.

“With Tyler being gone it takes away points," Parker said. "I know that now I have to put points on the board. But as a team we’re going to try to play together. And everybody has parts so we don’t have that one person that has to score 30, 25 points a game”.

Parker was clearly the leader on the floor for the team and was playing with full energy the entire game. Even when the game was out of reach at the end, the Knights were pressing and diving for loose balls.

Sophomore guard Khadaizha Sanders even knocked down two three-pointers late in the game, an area in which Stringer’s teams have struggled in the past. But that was all the three point shooting on display for Rutgers, as it was 0-for-8 on all other three-point attempts.

Stringer addressed their struggles but also dismissed the notion that they were a poor three-point shooting team.

“It’s always been the achilles heel," she said. “I could not believe it. I’m at a loss for words”.

She then turned and looked at guard Shrita Parker. 

“You hit just about every three yesterday, just not today,” Stringer said.

“Yes ma’am” Parker replied.

Stringer showed disappointment and disbelief in their shooting woes. She noted that freshman guard Kate Hill was the purest shooter they had but just couldn’t get any up during the game.

Stringer noted that they wouldn’t try to stray away from three-pointers and they would try to take them if they were there. It just didn’t seem as if they got enough open looks that they liked.

Junior transfer Kandiss Barber also had a strong game for the Knights, and was strong in all areas with 6 points, five rebounds, and four assists. As a newcomer, her experience with the team is limited and the group is clearly still developing chemistry. 

“Coming as a newcomer i just felt were beginning to gel, we're continuing to gel, and we’re continuing to progress,” Barber said.

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

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