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Rutgers women’s basketball faces uphill climb in B1G play

The Scarlet Knights have struggled against high major competition this season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 05 Womens - Maryland at Rutgers
Acting head coach Tim Eatman and guard Jailyn Mason.
Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been a challenging season so far for the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Without head coach C. Vivian Stringer, who has been on a leave of absence since April and will continue through this season, the Scarlet Knights are off to a 7-7 start under acting head coach Tim Eatman. It’s a difficult task for Eatman with an almost entirely new roster comprised of eight newcomers that includes six transfers. Even so, the results have been disappointing.

Rutgers is 0-6 against high major competition this season including double digit losses to Vanderbilt (9-5), No. 4 Arizona (10-0) and No. 6 Maryland (9-3). They lost to DePaul (11-2) by 3 points and Penn State (7-5) by 4, resulting in a 0-2 start to Big Ten play. The most disappointing loss of the season came against Stony Brook (9-1) in a 53-44 defeat at home in mid-November.

A highlight of the season was a 68-65 overtime victory over Harvard (6-6) in a game they trailed by 18 points in the fourth quarter.

Overall, RU finished non-conference play with a 7-5 record and currently have a NET ranking of No. 142. They have won three games in a row and are in a scheduled break for almost two weeks before resuming Big Ten play at home against No. 8 Indiana on December 30.

Defensively, RU is once again strong on this end of the floor is holding opponents to just 54.9 points per game and just 37.6% shooting including 27.6% from three-point range. They’re also averaging 10.1 steals and 4.6 blocks while opponents are averaging 18.0 turnovers per game. In the six losses to high major opponents, they are allowing 65.2 points per game.

The biggest issue for this team has been an inability to score. Rutgers is averaging just 57.2 points per game and have been held at or below the 50 point mark six times this season. They are shooting only 40.3% from the floor, 26.6% from three-point range and 63.8% from the foul line. The Scarlet Knights are also averaging a criminal 20.4 turnovers per game.

Osh Brown has been the best player for Rutgers this season. The grad transfer forward from Ball State is leading the team with 8.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. She is shooting 52.1% from the floor and also contributing with 1.4 assists and 1.1 steals per contest. Brown is the NCAA Division I active career leader in both total rebounds and double-doubles, which she has three this season. She had a 20 point, 20 rebound performance in the loss to DePaul on Thanksgiving.

Senior guard Shug Dickson, who transferred from Missouri, is second in scoring at 8.1 points, leads the team with 4.4 assists in addition to averaging 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

Bradley transfer Lasha Petree is the team’s best three-point shooter at 33.3% in making 14 of 42 attempts while averaging 6.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

The top returning player on the roster is fourth year forward Tyia Singleton and she is averaging 6.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. She stepped up in the first two Big Ten games, averaging 11.0 points and 8.5 rebounds. Hopefully, her increased production can continue in league play moving forward.

Former 4-star recruit Sakima Walker, a true sophomore in her second year at RU is averaging 5.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.0 steal per contest.

Arkansas grad transfer guard Jailyn Mason scored a game high 17 points in a win over Wagner with a personal best shooting night in making 5 of 7 from behind the arc to reach the 1,000 career point mark for her career. She is averaging 3.7 points, 2.3 assists and 2.2 rebounds this season and will look to build off her standout performance from last week.

The reality is if Rutgers can’t improve significantly on the offensive end, they will struggle to finish with a winning record this season and likely finish in the bottom four of the Big Ten standings. Only Wisconsin and Illinois are off to worse starts this season. A lack of shooters and inability to take care of the basketball have been the biggest issues.

Coach Eatman and the staff will continue to look for answers. Shortening the rotation is something that should occur with Big Ten play resuming as twelve players are averaging at least 8 minutes per game. Getting the most of this near two week scheduled break is key for Rutgers to make improvements entering the new year.