PISCATAWAY, N.J. (January 4, 2013) – The Rutgers women’s basketball team begins BIG EAST play Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. in front of the ESPNU cameras welcoming St. John’s to the RAC. Ed Cohen and Christy Winters Scott will be on hand to call the action on ESPNU. Fans can also log on to WatchESPN.com to view Sunday’s action. Fans can also listen to Danny Bresulauer on WCTC and Alex Lo and Dominic Dileo on WRSU.
The Scarlet Knights wrapped up non-conference play at 9-4 overall with a 54-50 victory over La Salle and are currently riding a eight-game home win streak dating back to last season. Against the 13 non-BIG EAST schools RU has faced this season, the Scarlet Knights have gone 7-0 at home at the RAC, 1-4 on the road and in 1-0 neutral site contests.
Senior Monique Oliver tops the stat sheet and is expected to return to the hardwood after missing all of the second half at #13/15 Tennessee and Wednesday’s La Salle game with an ankle sprain. Oliver, a BIG EAST preseason selection and a member of the BIG EAST Honor Roll once this season, is averaging a team-best 12.1 points along with a team-best 5.3 rebounds per game.
Classmate guard Erica Wheeler is second on the stat sheet and the other Scarlet Knight averaging double figures at 10.1 points. Wheeler came off the bench for a team-high 14 points against La Salle, as well as netted 11 points against the Lady Vols lat Sunday. Wheeler is also averaging 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 steals, and 2.3 assists per contest.
Forward Chelsey Lee, who will be playing in her first BIG EAST contest since the 2010-11 campaign, is third on the team in scoring at 7.2 points per game along with a team second best 5.2 rebounds per contest.
RU’s win over La Salle in their last contest brought head coach C. Vivian Stringer closer to the 900 win mark needing only six more victories to reach the milestone.
LAST TIME OUT - VS. LA SALLE
The Rutgers women’s basketball team closed out non-conference play on Wednesday night at the RAC with a 54-50 victory over La Salle.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer shook up the starting line-up with three freshman – Rachel Hollivay, Kahleah Copper, and Precious Person – and a pair of sophomores – Shakena Richardson and Christa Evans – getting the starting nod. The mainstays of the Scarlet Knight line-up returned to the hardwood with just over 14 minutes remaining in the first half.
After trailing Tennessee, 33-13, last Sunday, Rutgers again had 13 points again at the half, but led La Salle 13-11.
The game endured seven lead changes and seven ties. Neither team led by more than three points until an Erica Wheeler three-pointer at the top of the key as the shot clock was set to expire and a Chelsey Lee lay-up gave RU a 24-19 lead with 13:28 remaining . Wheeler and Lee helped to spark a 14-2 run for the Knights, which saw RU hold a 34-21 advantage with nine minutes to go. Rutgers would never trail again.
During RU’s run, the Explorers were held scoreless for a period five minutes. After a Shanel Harrison jumper at the 13:01 mark, La Salle was held without a field goal for nine minutes. However, the Explorers pulled within four, 36-32, with 6:32 left on the clock scoring 11 points all on free throws
Rutgers extended its lead by as many as 10, but La Salle scored eight points over the game’s final 32 seconds on a 8-3 run for the final margin.
SCOUTING ST. JOHN’S
The Red Storm come to the RAC sporting a 6-6 record coming off a 60-59 overtime loss at Delaware on Wednesday night. St. John’s has fallen in three of it last four contests. In addition to Wednesday’s night extra time game at Delaware, the Red Storm also suffered a one-point OT loss against UCLA.
St. John’s has two in double figures led by senior guard Shenneika Smith at 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Fellow classmate and guard Nadirah McKenith is second on the Red Storm at 13.9 and 6.4 rebounds per outing.
Missing from the line-up is senior guard Eugenia McPherson who suffered a season-ending knee injury just five games into the season.
Joe Tartamella replaced Kim Barnes Arico, who accepted the head coaching job at Michigan at the end of last season, at the helm of the Red Storm program. Tartamella is no stranger to the Queens, N.Y. program having been on staff since 2002 and helped the Red Storm to four NCAA Tournaments, including the Sweet 16 in 2012.
ALL-TIME SERIES WITH ST. JOHN’S
It will be the 39th all-time meeting between the Scarlet Knights and Red Storm and the 23rd meeting as BIG EAST rivals.
After RU dropped the first-ever meeting in conference play back in the 1995-96 season, the Scarlet Knights rattled off 17 straight wins. The Red Storm however have won the last four meetings. Rutgers’ last win was a 65-48 victory at Carnesseca Arena on Feb. 28, 2009.
LAST TIME VS. ST. JOHN’S
No. 17/16 Rutgers women’s basketball came up short against St. John’s, 61-52, on Feb. 12, 2012 at the RAC. Monique Oliver recorded her team-leading fifth double-double of the season with 11 points and 14 rebounds, while Khadijah Rushdan scored a team-high 17 points in her first game back from injury.
The Scarlet Knights clawed back to pull within four with 0:48 remaining in the contest after being down by as many as 17 in the second half, but were unable to complete the comeback.
Rutgers began its charge at the Red Storm advantage behind its point guard Rushdan – who returned to the lineup for the first time in three games. Rushdan opened the half with the first 10 Scarlet Knight points. The Wilmington, Del., native brought RU back within 10, 39-29, on a layup with 12:57 remaining on the clock. Rushdan went a perfect three-for-three from the floor and four-for-five from the free throw line during the run.
St. John’s was able to build its lead back to 16 points, but that did not stop the Scarlet Knights from making another run. The RU defense kicked into gear, holding the Red Storm without a field goal in the final 7:06 of the contest, allowing Rutgers to pick apart STJ’s lead.
A pair of jumpers from Rushdan brought RU within eight, 55-47 – following layups by April Sykes and Oliver and a trey from Erica Wheeler – with 2:41 remaining. On the ensuing possession Oliver connected on a layup and drew the foul, but was unable to complete the old-fashioned three-point play.
The Scarlet Knights brought themselves within four, 56-52, after a pair of free throws from Sykes with 0:48 remaining. Eugenia McPherson missed both free throws for the Red Storm, but STJ retained possession on a RU miscue. Nadirah McKenith made one of two free throws, allowing RU to run in transition and find an open Sykes for three, but the shot was too strong and McKenith grabbed the rebound to solidify the victory for the Red Storm. McKenith went a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe to close the game.
RUTGERS IN BIG EAST OPENERS
Rutgers is 12-5 all-time in BIG EAST openers and 10-1 when the first conference game of the season is played at the RAC. The Scarlet Knights have won seven of their last nine BIG EAST openers, including three-straight. RU defeated DePaul 60-57 in 2009-10, upset No. 11/12 Georgetown 70-53 during the 2010-11 campaign and downed Syracuse last season, 55-44.
RUTGERS IN ALL-TIME BIG EAST GAMES
The Scarlet Knights are 194-85 (.695) all-time in BIG EAST regular season games. Rutgers is 84-56 (.600) all-time in BIG EAST regular season road games. Conversely, the Scarlet Knights are 110-29 (.791) in conference home games.
DURING THE STREAK
The Scarlet Knights’ five-game win streak came to an end at Tennessee last Sunday. During that span, RU had been outscoring its opponents by 20.6 points per game and outrebounding the opposition by an average of 9.2 boards per contest.
During the win streak, RU had been shooting 46.5 percent from the field while holding opponents to just 28.2 percent from the floor.
The Scarlet Knights had also been generous with the ball averaging 17.6 assists per game during the span.
PROTECTING HOME COURT
The Scarlet Knights have had an outstanding track record of success at home during the previous 10 seasons under head coach C. Vivian Stringer. Rutgers is 129-20 at the RAC since the 2002-03 season. The Scarlet Knights have won eight straight on their home court dating back to last season and are currently 7-0 at the RAC this season
Rutgers at the RAC (osses in parentheses)
2011-12: 12-3 (Tenn, Notre Dame, St. John’s)
2010-11: 12-1 (UConn)
2009-10: 10-5 (Stanford, Temple, Notre Dame ‘Cuse, St. John’s)
2008-09: 14-4 (Tenn, USF, Pitt, UConn)
2007-09: 14-1 (Stanford)
2006-07: 11-2 (Duke, UConn)
2005-06: 11-1 (Temple)
2003-04: 14-1 (UConn)
2002-03: 11-2 (BC, Miami)
GETTING THE STARTING NOD
Rutgers has used eight different starting line-ups through the season’s first 13 games.
Georgia, GW (0-1):
Wheeler, Laney, Canty, Oliver, Lee
Wheeler, Laney, Canty, Evans, Lee
Wheeler, Laney, Davis, Evans, Oliver
Wheeler, Laney, Davis, Copper, Oliver
Wheeler, Laney, Davis, Richardson, Oliver
LIU:, LA Tech, Southern(3-0):
Wheeler, Laney, Davis, Evans, Oliver
Miami, Stony Brook, Tenn (2-1):
Wheeler, Laney, Davis, Oliver, Lee
La Salle (1-0)
Hollivay, Copper, Person, Evans, Richardson
Note: The starting lineup in RU’s last game featured all underclassmen with three freshman and two sophomores getting the nod. That marked the first game of the season where more than one freshman had started and the first game of the season where there had not been a senior in the lineup. The last time a freshman started in a game was against Princeton on Nov. 14 when Kahleah Copper took the court for the opening minutes. Rachel Hollivay and Precious Person both garnered their first career starts.
RUTGERS VS. THE TOP-25
Rutgers is currently 1-2 against the Top 25 in 2012-13. RU opened up the season against No. 10/11 Georgia with a 57-51 setback and captured its first win over a ranked opponent on Dec. 16 with a 42-34 victory over #21/23 Miami. Most recently, the Scarlet Knights suffered a 66-47 setback at then-#13/15 Tennessee on Dec. 30.
The Scarlet Knights will only have two days between Sunday’s game with St. John’s and their next Top 25 foe taking on No. 11/12 Louisville on Tuesday.
HOLLIVAY’S STARTING DEBUT
Freshman Rachel Hollivay garnered her first starting nod in RU’s last contest - a 54-50 win over La Salle. Hollivay, whose role has steadily increased as the season has progressed, shot 5-of-6 from the floor with a career-high 11 points. Additionally, the Scarlet Knight rookie added six rebounds and two steals. Her post presence helped lead RU to total 28 points in the paint against La Salle.
A FEW POINTS:
The 13 first-half points scored by RU at the half of the Jan. 2 contest with La Salle tied for the fewest points scored by the Knights all season. Similarly, they netted 13 first-half points in the previous game in the loss to No. 13/15 Tennessee.
The 11 first-half Explorer points were the fewest points allowed by the Scarlet Knights this season. Previously, the fewest points allowed was 14 against Temple on Nov. 21.
Rutgers’ 41 second-half points against the Explorer are the most points scored in the second-half of a game this season. The previous high was 40 in RU’s 72-44 win over Stony Brook on Dec. 21.
STARTING DOESN’T MATTER
Senior guard Erica Wheeler, who before Wednesday had started in the previous 15 straight games dating back to late last season, came off the bench on Wednesday to grab seven steals, setting a career and season high in the category against La Salle.
The Rutgers women’s basketball team hits the road for the first time in conference play taking on two Top 10 teams. The Scarlet Knights will meet up with Louisville on Tues. Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. The game with the #10/11 Cardinals will be televised by the CBS Sports Network with Brent Stover and Deb Antonelli on the call. RU will then take on Notre Dame meeting up with the #5/5 Irish in South Bend on Sun. Jan. 13 at 3:30 p.m. in front of the ESPNU cameras.
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