Rutgers holds on to defeat James Madison in season opener

Photo by Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez | The Daily Targum

During media day for the Rutgers women’s basketball team last Wednesday, head coach C. Vivian Stringer said that she would be happy to win five games this season. After the first game of the season, she already has one.

The Scarlet Knights (1-0) held off a late comeback to defeat James Madison (0-1), 76-63, Friday night in Harrisonburg, Virginia. After going 6-24 last year, they found the win column in just their first game this season, beating a team that went 26-9 last year, made it to the third round of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) and is a favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) this year.

Fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife — whose absence last year was one of the primary reasons why Rutgers only won six games — picked up right were she left off two years ago. She led the Knights with 26 points, including a 12-for-14 showing from the free throw line. It was the 47th time in her career that she led the team in scoring.

“We lost her last year, and it makes a big difference (when she’s back),” Stringer said. “She has the skills to get it done, and it's good for us to have her back.”

Another promising sign for the Knights going forward was the fact that they got big contributions from a multitude of players on the roster. Junior forward Caitlin Jenkins had 9 points and 14 rebounds, and senior guard Jazlynd Rollins had 10 points, scoring in double figures for the second time in her career.

After leading 11-10 at the end of the first quarter, Rutgers set the tempo with a 9-2 run to push the lead to 10, and by the end of the half led 31-23. The Knights continued to pressure James Madison, and led by as many as 21 with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter.

But the Dukes would not go down easily, as they went on a 21-2 run that went into the fourth quarter, whittling Rutgers’ lead all the way down to two. Stringer attributed the run to her team having the wrong personnel on the court.

“When we have 14 players, our issue is who are the seven people on this team and who are the seven people on that team,” she said. “… The group that was out there was not the group that could handle the ball in the press situation, so I started picking people off the bench."

Yet the Knights refused to give up the lead, steadily increasing their margin, and in the end won by 13.

Rutgers held a big edge when it came to rebounds, getting 48 boards to James Madison’s 34. This included a 30-23 advantage on defensive rebounds. Stringer gave a lot of credit to Jenkins for leading the team on the boards, saying that rebounding is what she is meant to do.

“We’ve been out-rebounded by everybody, including ourselves,” Stringer said. “But Caitlin Jenkins is a rebounder. She’s just like ‘the ball’s over there, let me go find it.’ She’s proven that (rebounding) is exactly what she can do. She’s doing what we haven’t had in quite a few years.”

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