Rutgers blows by Charlotte to start season 3-0Photo by Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez | The Daily Targum
Last year, the Rutgers men’s basketball team followed up a 7-25 season by surprising many, winning six straight games to start the season and finishing with their first ever Big Ten Tournament win.
But this year, it is the women’s team that is doing the early surprising.
The Scarlet Knights (3-0) defeated Charlotte (1-2) Thursday night, 77-54, equaling half their win total from last season in just the first week of the season.
Rutgers had the game in the bag as early as the first quarter, as it held a commanding 22-6 lead after the first ten minutes, and then had a 42-25 lead at halftime. Tyler Scaife and Jazlynd Rollins were big contributors in the first half, as Scaife had 12 points while Rollins had 8.
A big difference between this game and the Knights’ first two was that they did not allow their opponent to go on a long run in the second half and close the gap on a 20+ point deficit. This time, Rutgers kept the pressure on the 49ers and didn’t allow them to get closer. The team finished the third quarter with a 61-39 lead, and ended the game up 23, their biggest margin of victory so far this season.
Despite the difference, Scaife said that there wasn’t much contrast from this game to the past two.
“Basketball is game of runs,” she said. “Temple and James Madison went on runs, and Charlotte didn’t. I feel like we were playing hard even when the other teams went on runs, but Charlotte couldn’t really find a flow today.”
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer has been stressing a press defense with her team, and once again it paid off. The Knights forced 28 turnovers, including 20 steals. Both were season highs.
“Our 55 (press) caused a lot of turnovers, which led to a lot of easy buckets,” Scaife said. “We pressed so much in the second half that it caused fatigue (for Charlotte).”
Scaife and Rollins ended the game as the top two scorers, just like they were in the first half. Scaife finished with 18 points and Rollins had 13.
Caitlin Jenkins led Rutgers with nine rebounds, five of which were on the defensive end. The Knights outrebounded Charlotte 38-36, although the 49ers did have more defensive rebounds, holding a 22-20 advantage.
Rutgers returns to action on Sunday, when it hosts Wake Forest (2-1) for its first home game of the season. The Knights hope they can keep the momentum going and continue what has been a perfect start to their season.
After three wins against teams from smaller conferences, Rutgers now has a chance to get a big win against a team from one of the major conferences in the sport, the Atlantic Coast Conference. Since 2014, it is 1-6 against ACC teams, including a 55-43 loss at Wake Forest last year.
For freshmen and transfers, it will be the first time that they will be playing in front of a home crowd at the RAC. But the return home will be especially meaningful for one experienced Knight. After missing all of last season, Scaife, will be playing her first game in in Piscataway since March of 2016.
“The fans are ready to see us come home,” Scaife said. “With the crowd behind us, I feel like they’ll contribute to us getting the win on Sunday.”