“She’s on fire!”
That’s what iconic NBA Jam announcers would have said if senior guard Rachel Krauss’s 16 point second-half performance was played inside of a ’90s arcade machine instead of Panzer Athletic Center. Nevertheless, Krauss snapped her cold streak on Tuesday night and scored a season-high 24 points on 6-10 shooting from beyond the arc – after shooting only 15 percent from three in the team’s first four games.
Krauss’s effort propelled the Montclair State women’s basketball team to a 68-48 victory over Stevens Institute of Technology as the Red Hawks earned their fifth consecutive victory to start the 2016-17 season.
“It feels really good that [my shots] finally dropped tonight,” Krauss said after the game. “You know, my confidence was down a little bit after the first four games. But, my teammates and my coaches kept telling me, ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting, they’re going to go in.'”
Krauss nailed a half court, buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter that sent the crowd and Montclair State’s bench into a frenzy. Smiles, high fives and fist bumps appeared up and down the Red Hawk bench after every Krauss three.
The outburst of emotion wasn’t because Krauss’s performance was unexpected, but because Krauss finally broke through and reemerged as a dynamic scoring threat.
“It’s huge for us,” Head Coach Karin Harvey said after the game. “It opens everything up; we get a lot of confidence. She gives us a big lift. I’ve been saying to her, ‘Don’t worry about it, just keep shooting.’ Tonight is a nice night for her to catch fire. And I’m happy for her because she works so, so hard.”
The Red Hawks were missing the precise shooting stroke from Krauss throughout the team’s first four games – even though Krauss has been taking high-quality shots. But, Krauss’s offensive output could be the difference between the Red Hawks being a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship team and a team that can go deep into the NCAA Tournament.
When she’s off, the Red Hawks’ offensive problems are exacerbated. The lanes to the basket shrink and junior forward Katie Sire sometimes becomes the team’s only source of offense. When Krauss is on, all of their problems seem to go away. The women’s basketball team plays with newfound confidence after every made three. There’s more space on the floor. And, Montclair State gets bigger leads and some much needed breathing room.
Despite shaky shooting numbers to start the season, Krauss has been playing well. She has made an impact on the offensive and defensive glass – partly because of her superior height and length at the guard position, and partly because of her scrappy effort – and she rarely turns the ball over. Krauss’s offensive ability, though, makes the Red Hawks a more dangerous team.
“Being able to to shoot the three is going to be a big part of how many points we score and if our offense is working or not,” Krauss said.
No kidding. If Krauss has performances like the one she had on Tuesday night, it will make things easier for Montclair State throughout the 2016-17 season.
The Red Hawks will be back in NJAC action against Ramapo College on Nov. 30 at Panzer Athletic Center.