The last time the Rutgers women’s basketball team faced Penn State, the Scarlet Knights (16-5, 6-4) were facing a program sitting at an 8-9, 0-1 record to start off the year.
This time around, when Rutgers faces the Nittany Lions (7-15, 1-10) at home tomorrow night at 7 p.m., it will oppose a program that has struggled since the two schools’ previous matchup, as Penn State is currently in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. The Nittany Lions’ only win since Big Ten play began came against Michigan State on Jan. 9.
While Penn State is certainly not the toughest opponent the Knights will play again this season, it will still be important for Rutgers to approach the game as it would with any other matchup. The Knights did lose to the Spartans (11-11, 4-7) earlier this year, and although the Nittany Lions’ victory over them can be considered as an outlier compared to the rest of their season, the win certainly shows Penn State has the ability to surprise against any team.
Rutgers will look to ensure that doesn’t happen by performing well in a setting that has seen a good deal of success this year. At the Rutgers Athletic Center, the Knights have played to a 9-2 record. In those games, Rutgers has averaged 73.1 points per game while its opponents have averaged 52.7 points per game.
The biggest threat to the home team tomorrow night will be the Nittany Lions’ Kamaria McDaniel. The junior is averaging a team-high of 19.9 points per game this season and has also shown some talent on the defensive side of the ball as well, tallying 18 blocks and 20 steals for her team thus far.
Her matchup with the Knights’ junior guard Arella Guirantes will be an interesting one to watch. Guirantes is averaging a team-high 19.4 points per game and has accumulated 101 defensive rebounds to go along with her 22 blocks and 33 steals this year.
Who Penn State puts out in the starting five to accompany McDaniel, who has sat out only one tip-off in 22 games this year, will be another aspect of the Nittany Lions’ game to watch.
Along with McDaniel, the only other Penn State players to start in at least 20 games for their team this season have been Siyeh Frazier and Makenna Marisa. The two are coming into Thursday’s game averaging 12.7 and 9.7 points per game and shooting 44% and 35% from the field, respectively.
The other two starting sports have been filled by a list of different players that includes Lauren Ebo, Alisia Smith, Anna Camden and Shay Hagans.
Ebo and Smith have made their mark on the boards this season for the Nittany Lions, accumulating an average of 5.5 and 5.8 rebounds per game, respectively. The two lead Penn State in the category despite their limited action.
Camden and Hagans have not had the same success this year. Both are bringing in less than three rebounds per game and are averaging no more than 5 points per game this season. The two are also averaging less than 40% from the field.
While the Nittany Lions’ struggles with depth have impeded their ability to string together any sort of success this season, Rutgers will still have to keep an eye on some of the impact players for Penn State like McDaniel, Ebo and Smith.
If the Knights are successful in limiting what success they can bring to the table, the home team has a respectable chance of going into its next contest on the road with a renewed sense of confidence against a tough 18-4, 9-2 Maryland team.