Returning to the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) for the first since defeating Coppin State in a game that showed the Rutgers women’s basketball team firing on all cylinders, the Scarlet Knights (3-0) took the lead early in their game against Niagara and never looked back.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer was able to get her 502nd win as head coach for Rutgers, tying former University of North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell for fifth-most wins in NCAA women’s basketball history.
The Knights stayed with their starting set of senior center Jordan Wallace, graduate student guard Khadaizha “KK” Sanders, junior guard Arella Guirantes, junior forward Tekia Mack and junior forward Mael Gilles.
Rutgers won the tip-off and immediately took the lead off a layup from Wallace. After a takeaway at half-court and a back-court violation on the next play, the Knights found themselves up 6-0. The opening frame was highlighted by an acrobatic “and one” scored by Mack. The first quarter ended with a 24-11 score in favor of Rutgers.
The Knights began their scoring in the second quarter with a three from Sanders around two minutes into the quarter. Mack used her 6-foot-1-inch frame to capture her second “and one” of the game shortly after.
As the quarter progressed, Guirantes showed why she was named Big Ten Player of the Week by raining down shots from all over the floor. She scored the most points for Rutgers with 24, which were complemented by her seven rebounds – good for second-most on the team. She views her recent success as a continuation of last year.
“I got my rhythm toward the end of the season and I just know I have to take a bigger offensive role.”
The first half ended with a dominant 46-19 Knights lead.
At various points in the first half, the Purple Eagles (0-3) struggled to get past the tight double-team coverage at half-court, leading to 16 points for Rutgers.
The third quarter began with an impressive drive from the corner by none other than Guirantes. Mack, looking for her third “and one” of the game, was unsuccessful in scoring the layup but made up for it by draining her free-throws. In the third quarter, the low point for the Knights came as the team began to look unorganized and took several fouls. Order was restored when Rutgers ended the quarter with several strong drives, bringing the score to 66-28.
Any remaining thought of the Knights slowing down was erased by a corner three from true freshman guard Joiya Maddox, who made herself known by finishing the game with 8 points and three rebounds.
Graduate student Danielle Migliore, a transfer from St. Bonaventure, has shown she has quickly adjusted to playing on the Banks by scoring 6 points and three rebounds in nearly 14 minutes of play. She pointed literally and figuratively to her teammates for helping her make that transition.
“They really help me, even out of practice. If I need to watch film with someone, they’ll be there.”
Rutgers remained dominant to close out the game and won by a final score of 87-37. While scoring 87 points a few nights after putting up 107 seems impressive in itself, that isn’t what Stringer wants to focus on.
“I’m not looking at the score, necessarily. Honestly, it’s the execution," said Stringer.
The Knights look to continue its success in the last game of its homestand against Harvard. Tip-off is Sunday at 2 p.m. at the RAC. The Crimson (3-0) will be the strongest opponent Rutgers has faced. Harvard currently sits at first in the Ivy League.
As the Knights look forward to the season, Stringer is happy with what she sees so far.
“They’re very unselfish and they play together and I think you could appreciate that we enjoy playing with each other and that is a great thing.”