By Mike O'Sullivan
January 14, 2016
The Rutgers women’s basketball team returned home to the Louis BrowncAthletic Center on Wednesday night in search of some home cooking to avenge a road defeat against Ohio State in their previous game.
The Scarlet Knights (12-5, 3-2) were able to do just that by throttling a reeling Illinois squad, defeating the Illini by a score of 67-54. It was the eight straight victory at the RAC for the Knights, while they handed Illinois (7-9, 0-5) their eight straight loss.
The Knights were led by junior guard Tyler Scaife, who was sizzling all night and finished with 27 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the field.They got off to a quick start, finishing the first quarter with a 20-9 lead in which they controlled both ends of the floor.
The Knights now hold a 205-134 over their opponents in the first quarter in games they have won this season. It was important for them to get off to a quick start against a team that has been struggling, and they seized the opportunity by asserting themselves with a fast style of play.
In total, they finished the opening period by shooting 9-for-12 from the field. Rutgers continued with their offensive firepower into the second quarter, and they took a 38-26 lead going into halftime.
They shot 16-for-29 from the field in the first half, good for a 55.2% clip. Scaife made six of her seven shot attempts in the half, pacing the Knights with 14 points.
In the second half, she shot 5-for-7, including 2-for-3 from three-point range, scoring 13 more points to give her a total of 27 on the night. It seemed to be one of those nights where the shots were just falling, and Scaife gave the Knights consistent scoring through both halves of this conference matchup.
“Bri [Canty], [Rachel] Hollivay, and Kahleah [Copper], everyone has been finding me in my spots and I’ve been making my shots.” Scaife said.
Senior wing Kahleah Copper made some history in the game and continued to provide scoring and rebounding for the Knights. By finishing with 15 points, she moved up to ninth place on the school’s all-time scoring list, passing former Rutgers standout and current WNBA all-star Epiphany Prince.
The Preseason All-Big Ten wing added 11 rebounds to finish with her seventh double-double of the season, and the fourth in her last five games. Though she shot just 5-for-16 in the game, her poise and crashing of the boards on both ends has given the Knights a spark the whole season, and has led to an improvement in her all-around game.
She has spoken throughout the season about the importance of helping the post players on the boards, and along with Scaife, who also added five rebounds, the Knights have been seeing more success garnering rebounds lately.
“Coach made a great point to us in practice one day about owning two things, and I noticed that I didn’t own two things, so I took that information in and tried to convert it into my game,” she said.