Rutgers puts aside distractions to beat Wisconsin
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - The Rutgers women's basketball team overcame some turmoil off the court over the past few days to beat Wisconsin.
The school announced on Sunday that Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer would step away from the program to rest on the advice of doctors. That news was sandwiched between two players being dismissed from the team.
Stringer, who missed the Scarlet Knights' loss at Michigan on Thursday, is expected to return for the postseason after the Big Ten Conference tournament. Assistant coach Tim Eatman took over and led the team to a 73-53 win over the Badgers on Monday night. He also coached the team against Michigan.
"When mom's away you want to make sure you do everything you can to make sure mom feels proud of you," Eatman said after the win. "I think the way they played tonight, our energy our effort was so great. If coach didn't get a chance to watch the game, I know she felt a tingle inside of her because these kids played really hard for her."
Rutgers was playing its first game without star guard Ciani Cryor. The redshirt junior was dismissed from the team for violation of team policy. She also missed eight games to start the season. She was second in the conference averaging 6.1 assists.
"We wouldn't be where we are if C.C. wasn't playing for us," Eatman said. "We're really proud of her effort and we wish her the best wherever she goes. As a transfer, she'll be a great player for someone. At end of the day, you have to look at what you have in the room. What's in the room is what you have. We can't drop our heads or go woe is me. All of us have to step up and come together with a collective effort to do what we can every possession."
Last week, the team announced that suspended forward Caitlin Jenkins was also dismissed from the program. She was suspended indefinitely earlier this month following a Feb. 2 arrest where she was charged with simple assault and criminal mischief according to court records.
Rutgers has two regular-season games left, hosting Minnesota on Thursday and visiting Ohio State on Sunday. The team is in fourth place in the conference and can clinch a double-bye in the league's tournament with one more win or a loss by Michigan or Ohio State. Rutgers had dropped four of its last five games before the victory over Wisconsin.
"We were trying to make coach Stringer happy," guard Tekia Mack said after the win. "She's our second mom away from home. I want to credit coach Eatman, even though he can be hard on us, he really does care."
Rutgers is trying to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015. Stringer is the only women's coach to take three different teams to the Final Four: Cheyney State in 1982, Iowa in 1993 and Rutgers in 2000 and '07. Her teams have appeared in 26 of the 36 NCAA Tournaments and made 10 regional finals.
"As you can imagine this was not an easy decision; however, in consultation with my doctors, it is in my best interest to spend time to get healthy before returning to the day-to-day grind of coaching," Stringer said in a statement Sunday. "I know our young ladies can finish the season strong playing Scarlet Knight basketball and I will rejoin the team as soon as I can."
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