Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The women’s game continues growth at Rutgers' expense

For the first time in program history, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights had a sold-out crowd at Jersey Mike's Arena as they faced off against the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes. Despite the tough loss at home, 103-69, there appeared to be much to take away and build from moving forward for the organization. Unfortunately, they were down a significant advantage as Rutgers' leading scorer, Kaylene Smikle, was out due to injury. Nevertheless, Rutgers made a respectable effort and left the game with more support than ever.

“Well, I'd like to see us keep going from a consistency standpoint, but I am happy to see us playing the pace that we want to play,” Rutgers head coach Coquese Washington reflects on the growth of the team. “The more that we do that, the more that we will get accustomed to being able to make the shots, being able to defend at that pace, being able to do all the things that we want to do on both things. But we have to establish that this is how we're going to play, win, lose, or draw.”

“We're going to play a certain way and we're going to get better at it night in and night out and starting to see since we come back from Christmas, three games where we're playing the style of basketball that we want to play. … But that's one thing that I've been pleased to see,” Washington continues.

Throughout the game, the game plan appeared simple for Iowa as they used their speed to put pressure on the Scarlet Knights. The greatness of Iowa star guar Caitlin Clark was on full display as she created numerous opportunities for her teammates and overall highlight-worthy plays. Most importantly, Clark's style of play is bringing new audiences from all over the country to watch female basketball. 

“After I go back and watch the game, I'm like, ‘dang? Did she just do that?’ … Sometimes it can be a surreal experience to watch a genius at work, to watch excellence at work and certainly, when you coach against Caitlin Clark, you're watching a genius at work,” Washington explains Clark’s greatness.

“She is an amazing player. But again, I go to the teamwork aspect and the energy out there with her and her teammates, that is unusual, and I think you see it at times with certain teams like the Golden State Warriors and their championship. There's a synergy out there that you don't always see even with really good teams. And so that's what for me makes it fun to coach against her and to watch her do her thing,” she continues.

What Went Wrong for the Scarlet Knights 

The game's speed proved to be too much for the Scarlet Knights. Specifically, the Scarlet Knights' greatest strength was stripped away from them by the pace of Iowa. Rutgers rely on their centers to dominate in the paint in all aspects of the game. Unfortunately, the speed of Iowa in transition forced Rutgers forward Destiny Adams to get in early foul trouble. Naturally, this affected their aggressiveness on the floor and forced their other bigs, Kassondra Brown and Chyna Cornwell, to play more minutes. Iowa's speed forced these slower defenders to guard in space, eventually tire them out, and get into foul trouble. Therefore, the Hawkeyes found themselves at the free-throw line quite often.

“Destiny is a really important piece to what we do. She allows us to have a balanced attack from inside, and outside,” Washington explains how vital Adams is to this team and when she’s absent the presence is felt. “Her getting in foul trouble, she’s one of our toughest defenders, she’s one of our better rebounders, so when you don’t have her on the floor for a quarter of the game or more, that’s a big presence that's missed. She also gets her transition game going because she rebounds, and she runs and she can push the ball.”

“We've got to learn how to adjust our intensity when we get one or two fouls. The other thing is we've got to get better with our defense foundation, containing the ball not reaching in and not getting some of those fouls. At the same time, Iowa plays at such a fast pace offensively that when you've got a lot of young players and young guards out there, they’ve got to go through it.”

The Game is Changing Before Everybody's Eyes

The realization of the value of women's sports is beginning to spark not only in basketball but in other sports as well. Specifically, Washington jokes and hints towards this during her post-game conference regarding the game's growth. The game is evolving, and it's in large part due to Clark's efforts. However, several talented women players also played a factor in this reality. There's no secret that it's a fun time now for women's sports as they continue to expand. Young girls are gravitating to play the game of basketball to be more like these phenomenal athletes.

“I think it's a testament to you know what Caitlin has brought to the game,” Washington expresses her thoughts on the evolution of the game. “But I also think you know it is also reflective of the long-term growth of this game. Going back you know it's like we build layers and you keep fighting as a profession of women's basketball. We keep fighting for the recognition. Keep fighting for the opportunity, and right to be respected as a profitable enterprise.”

“But it is about the media. The media recognizes the value of women’s sports in general, women's basketball in particular. There are a lot of women who are a draw. So, when you look at commercials, it's not just one player. There are a lot of women athletes who are now commanding the room when it comes to commercials and endorsements and all that kind of stuff. It's great to see that the NCAA recognizes the value of women's basketball.”