WHO: Maryland Terrapins (13-2, 4-0) @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-4, 3-2)
WHAT: Women's basketball B1G Conference game
WHERE: Rutgers Athletic Center, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ
WHEN: Thursday, January 15, 2015 9:00 p.m. ET
WATCH: In Person
What's a Scarlet Knight?
First, a little history. Rutgers was originally chartered in 1766 as Queens College. Between that date and 1825, the campus closed twice due to financial difficulties. Upon its reopening in 1825, it was renamed Rutgers College in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers who had fought in the American Revolutionary War. Colonel Rutgers was so flattered that he donated a $5,000 bond that placed the college on sound financial footing.
It was named New Jersey's sole land grant college in 1864 and gained university status 60 years later. The New Jersey Legislature enacted laws in 1945 and again in 1956 officially designating it as "The State University of New Jersey."
Rutgers is known as the birthplace of college football because of a game played on its campus in 1869 between the host school and neighboring Princeton University. In a tip of the cap to its original name, Rutgers athletic teams were initially called the Queensmen. Beginning in 1925, the school adopted another campus symbol, the chanticleer (a type of fighting rooster), as a new symbol and team nickname.
Rutgers remained the Chanticleers until the early 1950s when "a campus-wide selection process changed the mascot to that of a Knight" and by 1955 the Scarlet Knight had become the new Rutgers mascot. So why scarlet? Well, the short answer appears to be because orange was hard to find.
The Dutch Reformed Church founded the original Queens College and the student body initially wanted the color orange to symbolize the ties to its Dutch heritage. But, according to the Rutgers athletic website,
"An orange flag, however, could not be found in the New Brunswick area. The students settled for an available scarlet flag. Scarlet soon became symbolically appropriate, for it was discovered that the Dutch Prince of Orange actually used red, not orange, in his family coat of arms. The trustees adopted scarlet as the school color in 1900, making Rutgers one of the first colleges in the U.S. to have an official school color. From the time of its choice by the students, the scarlet has been the Rutgers color."
So there you have it, folks. The history of the Scarlet Knights in a turtle shell.
Scarlet Knights on the court - 2014-15
Although Rutgers enters the game with a less than intimidating 12-4 (3-2) record, any foe that approaches a Vivian Stringer coached team lightly does so at their own peril. Including this season's 12 wins, Stringer, who is in her 20th season at Rutgers, has amassed 941 career wins. Her teams are disciplined, both and physically and mentally, and will always be among the toughest on anyone's schedule. (As a side note, this is Stringer's second go-round as a B1G coach. She was Iowa's head coach from 1983 through 1995 where she won six Big Ten titles, reached nine NCAA Tournaments, including two Elite Eights and one Final Four, and amassed 169 conference wins.)
Offensively, the Scarlet Knights are seventh in the B1G scoring 73.1 points per game. They give up 60 points per game which is fourth best in the league. More importantly, Rutgers is the second most efficient defensive team conceding just 0.78 points per possession and, unlike some of the other teams Maryland has faced they, do not play at a slow pace. The Scarlet Knights average 75.6 possessions per game (ppg) which compares quite favorably with Maryland's 75.9 ppg.
Where Maryland leads the Big Ten scoring 1.11 points per possession (ppp), Rutgers is eighth at 0.95 ppp. The principal reason for this is that the three-point shot is not a part of Rutgers' offensive scheme. The Scarlet Knights attempt a tad over seven three pointers per game and connect on just over two. In one fewer game, the Terps have utilized the three point shot twice as often and have made more than twice as many.
Stringer uses mostly a seven-player rotation, but will go as deep as nine if needed. Although they are not as big as Maryland, Rutgers does maintain a plus four rebounding margin over their opponents, but they have struggled a bit in league play where they have a slimmer 2.8 edge. Maryland will need to continue their dominance on the glass if they are to come away with a win.
Players to watch
Betnijah Laney, #44, senior, forward, 6'0". Laney is the second leading scorer for Rutgers and the current B1G co-player of the week.. Her 16.1 points per game are just a fraction behind leading scorer Tyler Scaife, but Laney has stepped up her game since conference play began and leads the team with 18 points per game. She is also the Scarlet Knights' leading rebounder pulling down 12.1 rebounds per game, making this the third straight game the Terps will face a team with a player who averages a double double.
Tyler Scaife, #3, sophomore, guard 5'9". Scaife, who was the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year in 2013-14, leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring with 16.6 points per game. At 81.4 percent she is seventh in the league in free throw percentage. While she doesn't shoot often from long range, with only 16 attempts on the season, she has connected on seven of them.
For teams that never played in the same conference, Maryland and Rutgers have a fairly long history dating back to their first meeting in March 1974 a game Maryland won 71-62. Though the Terps hold an overall advantage of 19-11 in the series, they are 5-6 in games played at Rutgers. One of those losses came two seasons after Maryland won the national championship and the season after Rutgers lost to Tennessee in the NCAA title game (the year of the Don Imus comment) with the Scarlet Knights taking a 68-60 win. The only other game in the Brenda Frese era came the next year when Rutgers came to College Park. In that one, Maryland cruised to a 67-47 win.
Rutgers is coming off back-to-back conference wins, topping Michigan by 13 before racking up a 20 point road win at Penn State. One player we failed to mention as one to watch, Syessence Davis, is someone who could have a significant role in the outcome of the game. Davis averages only 28 minutes per game but has recently moved into Stringer's starting lineup and has been playing closer to 33 minutes per game in conference play. She leads Rutgers in assists at 4.2 per game and the added minutes have allowed her to increase that average to six in conference games.
Another area Davis could disrupt Maryland, and one where the Scarlet Knights will test the Terrapins improving ball protection, is turnovers. Rutgers forces 20.4 turnovers per game and more than 11 of those come on steals where they are second in the B1G. Davis' 3.6 steals are second in the conference but in league games only, the senior averages a league leading 5.2 thefts per game.
Two of Rutgers' four losses this season have come at the hands of top ten RPI teams. The Scarlet Knights dropped a 96-93 double-overtime thriller to North Carolina and fell by 10 to Tennessee. Their two Big Ten losses have come at home to Iowa (RPI 18) and on the road at Ohio State (RPI 23). Maryland (RPI 6) hopes to become the third top ten RPI squad to come out of the RAC with a win. The GAMER prediction algorithm predicts a final score of Maryland 77, Rutgers 76 and projects a Terps win at a 51 percent probability.