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Rutgers Women Regain Form on Senior Night

By Michael Antosiewicz
After an uncharacteristic two game losing streak, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights ( 21-8, 12-6 Big Ten) rebounded Sunday afternoon against Big Ten opponent Indiana (14-15, 4-14 Big Ten) at the RAC. The team played excellent basketball in the second half as they pulled away to a 70-61 victory. Three Scarlet Knights—Kahleah Copper, Betnijah Laney, and Tyler Scaife—finished with double digit figures for scoring. Laney played  particularly well as she earned a double-double with 13 total rebounds. Altogether, these team and individual performances provided a proper send-off on senior night for the three seniors Laney, Syessence Davis and Christa Evans.

Although Rutgers dominated the latter part of the second half, the game went back and forth during the first period as each team enjoyed stretches of unanswered scoring. Right out of the gate, the lady Hoosiers hit back to back three-pointers to take an early 6-2 lead. For a moment, given their offensive dependency on three-point shots, the Hoosiers looked poised to dominate on offense. However, their shooting declined as Rutgers began to harden on the defensive end, preventing the Hoosiers from making another three-point shot for 10 full minutes.

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Senior Betnijah Laney notched a double-double in her final regular season game at the RAC. (Photo: : Ed Pagliarini)

With 12:30 left in the first, Rutgers’ stern defense allowed them to accumulate a 17-8 lead. But the Hoosiers fought back and eventually a clumsy turnover by Tyler Scaife, who finished with 16 points, allowed Indiana to take a 21-17 lead. Copper responded with skilled dribbling that led to a layup that was the first Rutgers score after a four minute scoring drought. Rutgers rolled from there to enter half time with a 30 to 26 lead. In the half’s final seconds Davis made a dominating block that set the tone for the second half.

Coming out of the break, Rutgers scored quickly and thoroughly. They played with great ball possession and passed the ball cleanly. Responding to Indiana’s zone defense, which actually took Coach Stringer by surprise, Rutgers employed a very small lineup and allowed Davis to engineer the offense. Davis finished with five assists and only two turnovers. Her play was critical for breaking down the defense’s zone.

One of Davis’ most impressive moments came at a crucial moment with 14:35 left to play. After a Rutgers score, Davis stole the ball on Indiana’s inbound. At this point, the Scarlet Knights secured an 10+  point lead. With 3:58 remaining in the game, Rutgers earned their biggest lead of 19 points for a score of 69 to 50.

Once victory was clinched in these closing moments, Coach Stringer made a nice gesture for her seniors, of which all three scored. She substituted all Evans, Davis and Laney at the same time as they walked off the court at the RAC to enormous applause from the crowd.

To be sure, this senior class deserved this moment according to Coach Stringer. In her post-game press-conference, the coach spoke emphatically and glowingly of this group. Coach Stringer ranked this senior class, despite their smallness in numbers, as one of her greatest ever. “They are not losers,” Stringer said as proceeded to describe these players as “selfless”, to “epitomize team”, and as people who give “max everything”.

However, the closing chapter to this senior class and season has not yet been written as the girls enter Big Ten tournament play this week in Chicago before the NCAA tournament. In order to improve, Coach Stringer said that the team needs to do a better job of converting turnovers into points. Fortunately, over the course of the season causing turnovers has not been a problem for Rutgers, and tonight they finished with 15 steals alone.

As long as what Coach Stringer described as the big three of Copper, Laney and Scaife are in scoring form, Rutgers’ tournament hopes are certainly legitimate. One thing that is for sure is the team’s unwavering mindset. Laney articulated the winning mindset the best with the sentiment that, “once we step onto the floor, its practice”.

Tune into to 88.7 FM or online at WRSU’s stream to hear the Rutgers perform during tournament season.

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Four Knights in Double Digits as Rutgers Throttles Illinois

By Dominick Savino

PISCATAWAY—Tyler Scaife finished with 21 points to lead a group of four Scarlet Knights in double-figure scoring as the Rutgers women’s basketball team trounced the University of Illinois by a score of 80-56 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Tuesday.

In addition to Scaife’s game-high total, Kahleah Copper scored 16 points, and Betnijah Laney and Rachel Hollivay added 14 apiece. It was the second game in a row that this quartet each posted 10 or more points, as they all chimed in with at least 12 points in Saturday’s 78-49 drubbing of Purdue at the RAC.

Rutgers (20-6, 11-4 Big Ten) was able to take control of the matchup early. Scaife’s jumper with 13:21 remaining in the first half gave the Scarlet Knights a 13-11 advantage that they would not relinquish for the rest of the evening.

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Tyler Scaife led the way for Rutgers at the RAC Tuesday night. (Photo: Naaz Modan, The Daily Targum)

However, Illinois (13-14, 4-11 Big Ten) did their best to claw back. Brittany Carter broke two Rutgers scoring runs by making 3-pointers at the 10:09 and 7:04 marks, the second of which was from steps behind the arc. Nevertheless, the Scarlet Knights entered the locker room up 36-28 after shooting a blazing 61% from the field in the first half.

Out of the break, the Knights went on an 11-3 run to stretch the lead to 47-31, and the rout was on from there. The lead ballooned to as much 26 points as C. Vivian Stringer’s team cruised to their second straight victory following last Tuesday’s tough road loss to Maryland.

As she readies her team for play in the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, Coach Stringer is understandably excited by the team-first basketball that Rutgers has exhibited during the last two games.

“There are lots of ways (to score). One of which is transition because this is by far the quickest team,” she explained after Tuesday’s win. “We’re also pressing and getting steals and the defense is creating situations for points. Aside from that, each player at each position is proving themselves to be legitimate.”

The excitement has also spread to the players, who are anticipating deep runs in the upcoming postseason tournaments.

“This is definitely the best we’ve played during my four years,” Laney stated about the team’s recent play. “We have a variety of different scorers. We are not counting on just one or two people to carry the load, and that’s been key for us.”

For the Scarlet Knights, the win moves them to 11-4 in the Big Ten Conference, which keeps them comfortably in 3rd place in the conference standings. The top four teams in conference play receive double-byes for the opening rounds of the Big Ten Tournament.

Rutgers is also now 10-1 when four or more players each score 10 or more points.

The Knights have three games remaining on the regular-season slate, including final road trips to Michigan State and Northwestern before the home finale against Indiana. Rutgers plays next at Michigan State on Sunday, February 22. Deondre Smalls and Danny Friedman will broadcast the game live for WRSU, and the pre-game show will start 1:45pm.

The Scarlet Knights Go Pink

By Lea Ginefra

The first 2500 guests at the RAC Saturday were greeted with pink t-shirts to help celebrate Breast Cancer awareness, survivors, and the progress that has been made in finding a cure. The “Pink-Out” and Play4Kay Foundation benefits the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, honoring former North Carolina State University women’s coach, Kay Yow, who passed in 2009 from the disease.

The 18th ranked Lady Knights, playing in full pink uniforms for the occasion, took on the Purdue Boilermakers for the second time this season. What began as close game in the first half, ended with a 29-point lead for Rutgers, which led them to clench a 78-49 win.

The Knights had a rather smooth start making easy transitions and layups, but struggled for points outside. 24 of their 33 points in the first half were in the paint. Coach C. Vivian Stringer emphasized that the team was “much more focused in terms of getting the ball inside.”

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The Knights had an impressive victory against Purdue Saturday afternoon at the RAC. (Photo: Scarletknights.com)

She also mentioned how she thought her team moved the ball well on offense, and maintained strong full court pressure early on. This defensive pressure frazzled the Boilermakers into turning the ball over a total of 22 times.

Rutgers contained Purdue to under 50 points again, just as their last encounter. Ashley Morrissette and Bridget Perry were the closest thing to offensive threats with 9 and 13 points. This time around, the Boilermakers did not have starting junior guard, April Wilson, to help. Wilson, who was injured at Wednesday’s game, leads the team in assists and has started 22 of her 23 games.

What stood out in this game was the overall play of junior guard, Kahleah Copper. Going 12 for 17 from the floor, and adding 6 rebounds, Copper was on fire. Although 24 points is not her season high (scored 25 against Penn State), it certainly shows why she was named WNIT MVP last season. Copper added that the encouragement and support from her teammates has “helped her play the way she has been for the past few games.”

Rutgers went from shooting 44% on the floor in the first half to 63% at the end of the second. They totaled 16 steals, 7 from SyessenceDavis. The leading scorer was Kahleah Copper with 24 points, followed by Betnijah Laney with 16, Tyler Scaife with 14, and Rachel Hollivay with 12.

Both Coach Stringer and Copper noted that their determination today was fueled by their past practice. The ladies have been intentionally pushing each other harder in recent practices. This type of play is all in preparation for both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. The Big Ten tournament is just around the corner during the first week of March.

The Scarlet Knights advance to 19-6 overall, and 10-4 in the Big Ten. The hard loss to Maryland last week did not put a damper on their attitude. They proved to be the stronger and more prepared team and are ready to take on Illinois this Tuesday at 7pm. Tune in to 88.7 WRSU for coverage at the RAC.

Best in the B1G — C. Vivian Stringer Clinches Most Wins in Conference History

By Victoria Pojawis

Piscataway, N.J.—-The RAC

Vivian Stringer, became the winningest coach in Big Ten history, with the Scarlet Knights 46-43 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Stringer now holds the record for the most all-time conference wins (177) in the history of the Big Ten. This includes her 13 seasons while she was at Iowa from 1983 to 1995.

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After the game, Stringer was swarmed on the court by many, and was honored with a scoreboard video tribute which highlighted special moments throughout her career. She was presented a bouquet of flowers, while she received a very warm, and well deserved standing ovation from the crowd at Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Coming in to Thursday night’s game against No. 19 ranked Nebraska, No. 21 ranked Rutgers was coming off a 76-65 win over Penn State Nittany Lions.

Rutgers, now boasts a 17-5 record and has now earned its first Top 20 win of the season. In addition to Coach Stringer’s amazing accomplishment, this win over Nebraska was extra special for the Scarlet Knights, since the previous four games played on their home court were losses. All losses were to higher ranked teams.

When asked after the game how she felt about reaching such a milestone for women’s basketball, Stringer said she felt enormous gratitude. “It makes me humble and grateful right from the beginning, I think about all the great times at Iowa, and I also think about my husband and the kids when they were little. It just brings back a lot of memories.”

The Scarlet Knights came out with an early lead and though the momentum shifted back and forth throughout the game, Rutgers maintained the most control and came out on top. Nebraska women’s coach Connie Yori felt that they just couldn’t keep up with the Scarlet Knights tempo.

“Being down nine points early in the game was definitely the beginning of our struggles,” Yori said. “Being down nine points against Rutgers is like being down so much more. We didn’t have a good flow offensively either. I think that not having our point guard hurt us even more.”

“You’ve got two very very defensive-minded teams playing and the first one who gets to 40 is probably going to win,” Yori said. “They got to 40 quicker than we did.”

Nebraska was without their point guard Rachel Theriot, who was injured in practice Thursday. Yori also believes they will be without Theriot Sunday against Maryland.

Betnijah Laney led Scarlet Knights with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Tyler Scaife scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half and Syessence Davis and Rachel Hollivay both contributed to the win, getting 8 rebounds each.

“We were inconsistent during the game for a bit, and messed up some, but we definitely learned from our mistakes and kept grinding,” said Laney. “We kept fighting.”

This was Rutgers’ third Top 25 win of the season. After defeating No. 25 Arkansas and No. 21 Minnesota. Rutgers has lost to Top 25 teams such as North Carolina- No. 6, Maryland- No. 8, Tennessee- No. 11, and Iowa -No. 20.

“We know that we’ve been playing some outstanding teams,” said Stringer. “We’ve have also had to work extremely hard. But we need to win those games. We need to recognize this is a Top 20 team and we really had to push it out. The current hallmark of our team is to never give up.”

Rutgers Knocks Off Penn State 76-65

By Ayah Houshieh

Coach Vivian Stringer tied Rene Portland for most career victories in the Big Ten with Sunday’s 76-65 win against Penn State.  Kahleah Copper had her highest scoring game of the season, knocking down 25 points.  Betnijah Laney contributed 16 points to the score and 14 rebounds hitting her 14th double-double.

Tyler Scaife scored 21 points and gathered up five assists throughout the heated game against PSU.

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Kahleah Copper dominated the Lady Lions on Super Bowl Sunday, leading RU to their fifth-straight win. (Photo Credit: AP)

Rutgers ended the first half with a 37-28 lead against the Lady Lions. Entering the second half they went into a full court press to add some pressure.  Penn State comes back in the first few minutes of the second half taking a one point lead against the Scarlet Knights 43-42.

Rutgers returns strong and the game begins to enter a shot for shot pace with Rutgers scoring and Penn State answering.

“When we get our backs against the wall, we tend to come back,” Stringer said. “We have been a team that has been resilient. We have a lot more of that fight and it was good.”

The Scarlet Knights played much of the game with aggressive defense and offense.  Fouling became the pathway to scoring more points.

Cynthia Hernandez, hit two 3s in her five minutes with eight players logging in at least 10 minutes.

They don’t really know who to guard because at any point I can go off, Kah can go off or Naj can go off,” Scaife said. “Whoever is hot at the moment, that’s who we try to feed.”

The final two minutes of the game consisted of face paced plays from both teams with Penn State catching back up, only two points shy of tying the score.  Penn state falls to the Scarlet Knights after Briyona Canty to Copper seals the game when Laney sinks both foul shots followed by a quick play for an easy basket.

Scaife commented on the style of how the team played. “I just felt like we had a little swagger to us today,” Scaife said. “That helped with the way we played.”

Coach Stringer added some humor at the end when asked about Thursday’s game against Nebraska.

Quoting Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch she replied, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”

Knights Hold on Against #21 Minnesota

By Matthew Salvatore

In a top-25 showdown at the RAC, the Rutgers women’s basketball team, ranked 25th in the nation, faced off against the Minnesota Gophers, ranked 21st in the nation. After Minnesota battled back from a 20-point deficit to bring the Rutgers lead down to just five, the two teams battled back and forth with Rutgers ultimately shutting the door on the Gophers.

Rutgers took the lead very early into the game and never looked back. After about 10 minutes played in the game Rutgers had jumped out to a 20 point lead against the Gophers with a score of 25 to 5. With the scoring being led by Tyler Scaife who had already put up 11 points.

The Gophers, however, were resilient and battled back in the last 10 minutes of the first half. The offense of Zahui pushed the Rutgers lead down to just 6 by the time halftime rolled around. Rutgers went into the half leading 37 to 31.

After halftime, both teams came out firing on all cylinders, looking to shut down the other. As one team would start a streak the other team would instantly shut it down. The Rutgers lead bounced around from as much as 11 to as little as 5. The two teams were like prize fighters battling back and forth throwing their best at the other.

In the last minute, it came down to Rutgers’ ability to convert on free throws, as the Gophers were down 7 with just 57 seconds left on the clock. The Knights stepped up hitting 77.8% of their free throws in the second half. The made free throws along with some tight defense against Minnesota ultimately allowed the Scarlet Knights to slam the door on the Gophers.

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Tyler Scaife led the way with a 28-point effort vs. Minnesota. (Photo Credit: AP)

The win is Rutgers’ first ranked win since beating Arkansas on December 7th, who had been ranked number 25. When asked if she thought the win was the Knights’ biggest of the year, Coach Stringer replied, “Yes. It has to be. We came out firing.”

The Scarlet Knights were forced to deal with the lightning rod offense of Amanda Zahui B. who dropped 36 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Stringer called the performance “An amazing one,” and added “I’ve never seen someone take 33 shots.”

“We closed down on their guards to keep them from getting the ball to Zahui, and it worked a lot of time.” This was the game plan for stopping Zahui that Stringer described in the postgame press conference. Part of the proven success was the eight turnovers committed by Shayne Mullaney, Minnesota’s junior guard.

Tyler Scaife was a dominant scorer, as she dropped 28 points, including 6 points from deep. Tyler alluded to her new hairstyle as the reason she was such a force. “It’s the hair, it has special powers. Each braid has a power and when they all come together you get games like tonight,” Scaife joked.

Betnijah Laney and Kahleah Copper also added significant offense to the Rutgers squad, putting up 15 and 13 points respectively. The two also grabbed 6 rebounds each to help boost the team’s total.

When asked if she was proud of the way her team never gave up, and ultimately closed the game against the Gophers, Coach Stringer replied “Absolutely. Just a few days ago I talked about how they had to play harder and leave it all out on the floor, and tonight they left all they had out on the floor.”

 

#24 Rutgers Falls to #8 Maryland At Home

By Gabe Sustick

Rutgers’ struggles continued at home Thursday as they dropped their fourth straight home game to a ranked opponent with a 71-59 loss to Maryland.

The Terrapins (15-2, 5-0) gave a great opportunity for Rutgers to get their first win at the Louis Brown Athletic Center against a ranked team.  The Scarlet Knights have had their share of ranked opponents in UNC, Tennessee, and Iowa all played in the comfort of the RAC.  It has been anything but comfortable for the team at home as they now spot a 5-4 record.

From the start of the game, Maryland came out firing, going on a 7-0 run with help from Lexi Brown’s two quick open three pointers.  Growing to a 22-7 point lead for Maryland only six minutes into the game.  This due in part to the fact that Maryland went 4/5 from three early in the game showing the three point defense issues of Rutgers.

With a few well played defensive possessions and shot clock violations against Maryland, The knights were able to make a late push in the first half, capping it off with a Tyler Scaife jumper at the buzzer to cut the deficit to four.

After a poor start to the half the Scarlet Knights were able to get some momentum back and get the energy back in the crowd.  Once again like the games before, Rutgers gave themselves a chance to take it in the second half.

Early in the second half the knights tied the game at 40 with a Briyona Canty layup.  Yet for a large part of the half, both teams were trading baskets as Rutgers couldn’t get ahead of the Terps but staying within a four point margin.  The defense improved at the three point line as Maryland did not make another three pointer in the second half since making four early in the first.  Yet that didn’t bother the Terps.

Laurin Mincy led the Terps with a game high 24 points, followed behind by three of her teammates who also had double digit scoring nights. There was too much offense for Rutgers to handle with Maryland being ranked 3rd nationally in field goal percentage and 6th in scoring.  The team had an easy time getting inside the paint and making the easy shots when they were available.

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The league-leading Terps were too much for Rutgers to handle Thursday night. (Photo Credit: scarletknights.com)

Kahleah Copper led the knights with 16 points, along with Betnijah Laney and Rachel Hollivay who had 12 and 14 respectively.  For most of the game the knights trailed in the rebound and turnover department, which doesn’t happen too often for them.  Laney’s late foul trouble played a part in their rebounding, while Maryland was handling full court pressure from the knights.  Rutgers had a tough time all night in the paint, culminating in a great pass by Copper to Laney inside and unable to finish an open layup.

The large deficit at the beginning of the game was playing a role in the later stages of the second half.  It took a lot to get back into the game, and in the second half, the knights didn’t have anything left in the tank to be able to take the lead.

A big storyline for Rutgers was the struggles of Tyler Scaife throughout the game.  Scaife finished the night with nine points, three rebounds, and two assists, while shooting 4/17 from the field and 1/5 from the free throw line.  For her not able to contribute like she usually does was a big reason why Rutgers had trouble getting back in the game.

Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer was glad to have Canty back in the lineup after missing four games with a knee injury. “We have been sputtering, hopefully we can get back into a routine with her back in the lineup,” said Stringer.

“I haven’t taken a Motrin since the beginning of this year,” said Stringer.  “I got a real tight headache. Trust me when I tell you that. The first thing I want to do is relax my neck because it’s killing me.  Yes it’s frustrating, but no it fires me up.”

That was Stringers response to being asked if it was frustrating losing these games at home and she made her point clear to everyone in the room including her players Laney and Canty asking them if they accepted second-best, and both responding no.

“Excuse my French, but hell no,” Stringer said.  “So I am not happy about this at all.”

With only 12 games left in the regular season and only a few of them against ranked opponents, the Scarlet Knights will look to work on their struggles as they head to Wisconsin on Sunday.  Make sure to tune in to 88.7 FM or radio.rutgers.edu for all the action.

Scarlet Knights Hold on Against Michigan

By Alex Esposito

The Scarlet Knights found themselves in dire straits after allowing Michigan back into a game they once had complete control over, blowing a seventeen-point halftime lead in the process.

“We got too comfortable,” said senior forward Betnijah Laney. “It was a wake up call.”

With the game tied at 51 apiece, the team rallied, going on a 7-0 run in less than a 2 minute span to open the lead back up. After that, it was smooth sailing for 24th-ranked Rutgers, as they outscored Michigan 30-17 in the final eight minutes of the game to clinch their eleventh victory of the season, as well as their first home victory in Big Ten play.

The final score was 81 to 68 in favor of Rutgers, in front of a crowd of just over 2,500 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

“I didn’t panic when they made their run,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “I wanted our team to be aware.”

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The Scarlet Knights got back on track last night against the Wolverines. (Photo Credit: William Perlman)

It was a balanced effort across the board from the Scarlet Knights, with three players scoring in double digits, and three more players falling just a point shy of that margin.

For Laney, the senior forward, it was just another day at the office, as she garnered her third double-double of the 2014-15 campaign. Her stat-stuffing and near triple-double performance of 20 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals was too much for the Wolverine defense to overcome.

Sophomore guard Tyler Scaife shot 9 of 16 from the field to finish with 20 points on the night. Not in the box score were her many highlight-reel ballhandling moves, as she sliced and diced through the Michigan defense all night long.

Syessense Davis, Kahleah Copper, and Shrita Parker rounded out the high-octane scoring attack for Rutgers with nine points apiece.

It was the play of junior center Rachel Hollivay, however, that encapsulated the Knights’ outstanding performance.

Her 10 points and 4 blocks were instrumental to victory, but it was her willingness to play physically in the paint that provided Rutgers with a huge spark off the bench, propelling them to victory.

The Wolverines fell to a record of 10-5 in defeat. After falling behind 25-8 in the early stages of the game, it seemed that Rutgers was well on its way to ending its three-game losing streak at the RAC.

“I wish we could have the first ten minutes of the game back,” said head coach Kim Barnes Arico.

With 14 first-half turnovers committed by Michigan, the third-year coach found her team in a big hole, but at halftime, made adjustments to get the Wolverines back into the game.

“Not to turn the ball over was our biggest halftime adjustment,” said Arico.

With only seven turnovers in the second half, the Michigan players heeded their coach’s advice, and a 17-5 Wolverines surge to open the half followed. That run was the closest shot they had at victory, as Rutgers was then able to pull away in the latter stages of the second half.

Senior forward Cyesha Goree led all scorers with 23 points, on 11 of 17 shots from the field. 19 of those points came in the second half.

The Wolverines also received great scoring contributions from their backcourt, with guards Shannon Smith and Siera Thompson chipping in 16 points apiece.

For the Knights, it was a thrilling conference win and as a result they will likely keep their spot as a top-25 ranked team. But with home tilts against ranked opponents Maryland and Minnesota looming on the horizon, there is still much work to be done.

The Scarlet Knights travel to Happy Valley this Saturday to take on the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Tune in at noon to 88.7, WRSU-FM, for game coverage.

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