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Rutgers Women’s Basketball Defeats Minnesota in Big Ten Opener

Rutgers center Rachel Hollivay

Rutgers center Rachel Hollivay

Just like the men’s team yesterday, the Rutgers women’s basketball team were out-rebounded and missed many close-range shots and layups. However, unlike the men’s team eventually losing to Indiana, head coach C. Vivian Stringer’s squad ended the 2015 calendar year on a five-game winning-streak and counting by overcoming an 11-point deficit to defeat Minnesota in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams 66-55 at the RAC on New Year’s Eve.

With the game all knotted-up at 49-49 with 4:14 to play in the fourth quarter, Rutgers (10-3, 1-0) used a 15-3 run to go up 65-52 with 1:28 left. Guard Briyona Canty and center Rachel Hollivay were key down the stretch from the free-throw line where Canty went 4-4 and Hollivay was 4-5 down the stretch. As a whole, Rutgers had 25 free throw attempts compared to only two for the Golden Gophers.

Hollivay’s play and enthusiasm was pivotal, as fellow center Ariel Butts missed the game, so all she did was put up a near triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks. When asked if she thought it was her best game in her career at Rutgers, guards Tyler Scaife and Canty quickly took the microphone, jumped in, and said, “yes”. But Hollivay’s standout game wasn’t by accident, over the break she has been doing extra workouts.

“Coach Stringer, she’s been trying to teach me this one move that I couldn’t get, and I finally got it,” Hollivay said. “It’s like this spin move, or the face-up, or the drop-step. So, she’s been teaching me that and I’ve been working on it.”

Scaife led the Scarlet Knights and had a game-high 23 points on an astounding 9-15 shooting (60 percent) including 1-3 from behind the arc, and 4-of-5 from the line, and seemed to be unstoppable.

Rutgers guard Tyler Scaife

Rutgers guard Tyler Scaife

“They were face-guarding me a little bit, and then they would go away from it, so when they went away from it I would just try and find little open spots and just try and stay aggressive,” Scaife told me after the game. “In the second half my shot fell more.”

Forward Kahleah Copper also notched her fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth.

Minnesota (8-4, 0-1) came in averaging 77.9 points per game but was held to 55. For stretches, Rutgers brought out the vaunted “55-defense” where they put on a full-court press hoping to get some mistakes and just being more aggressive. For the game, they swiped 11 steals and caused 18 turnovers.

Still, Golden Gopher’s all-time leading scorer and the Big Ten’s second leading scorer on the season Rachel Banham (23 points per game) was as good as advertised in the first half with 14 points including a buzzer-beating fade away three to beat the first quarter horn. But stifling defense caused her to struggle in the final 20 minutes as she only mustered three points the rest of the way finishing with 17 on the day. Guard Carlie Wagner led Minnesota with 22 points.

“[We had to] contain her, go over screens and just contain her,” Canty said of Banham. “She’s a great player. She’s going to score but we had to contain her and make an effort. (In the first half) she was comfortable coming off screens and pulling up, but I think in the second half we disrupted her.”

All-in-all, I asked Stringer if opening conference play on the right foot is a confidence booster going forward.

“It was huge,” she said. “There’s something about this group. They have a fight in them. We shot horribly at the beginning, missing layups and doing very uncharacteristic things, but I think it spoke to our character to be able to take a punch, get up, and continue to fight back. When you consider the Big Ten that’s just an outstanding conference, it’s good to see the team recover when we’re not knocking down shots.”

Up next, Rutgers hits the road to face off against the Iowa Hawkeyes on January 4th at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.


Below you may find the links to the player’s and coach’s post game press conferences.




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