A week full of wins for the Rutgers women’s basketball team was capped off with a victory Sunday afternoon against Towson.
The Scarlet Knights (8-1) captured a 67-53 win yesterday and a 73-63 victory on Thursday against Virginia.
Following what had been done through the first stretch of games, Rutgers sent out the same starters it had played all season in both games. The set includes senior center Jordan Wallace, graduate student guard Khadaizha Sanders, junior guard Arella Guirantes and junior forwards Tekia Mack and Mael Gilles.
It took a few minutes for the Knights to hit their stride that had carried them so far. The rather uneventful first quarter against the Tigers (3-6) ended 13-6 in favor of the home team.
Sanders made sure the unexciting tone to the game didn’t continue into the rest of it for Rutgers, though. Her sniping and ability to weave through defenders in mid-air led to impressive play on the court. She finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
In a close second quarter, the Knights sent out a younger lineup compared to Towson's.
“No one owns the starting position,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “So, I was going to try some other people that can get it done."
Sophomore guards Noga Peleg Pelc and Zipporah Broughton, redshirt freshman forward Tyia Singleton, true freshman center Maori Davenport and true freshman guard Joiya Maddox all saw action in the second quarter.
A more veteran lineup took the floor after the half. Once the game resumed, Rutgers found itself trailing immediately. Gilles decided to put an end to that by nailing a three-pointer, en route to her career high of 17 points and seven rebounds. The Knights finished the quarter with a 54-40 lead.
The Tigers showed signs of life in the final quarter and scored 13 points. As the quarter progressed, though, Rutgers took off, and Towson struggled to bring the team back down. In the fourth quarter, 9 of the Knights’ points came from the foul line.
In the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Rutgers was paired up with the Cavaliers (4-5).
Taking the floor for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend, the Knights dominated from 2 minutes into the first quarter when Sanders drew first blood.
The quarter ended with a score of 21-9 in favor of Rutgers.
Fouls against the Knights were raining down in the second quarter. The low-scoring period ended with a shootout. In the fleeting minutes, the teams combined for 19 points. Broughton found success behind the arc twice in the chaos. When the dust settled, Rutgers was leading 37-31.
Guirantes, the Knights' backbone, finished the first half with only 2 points. She was able to battle her way through the third quarter to score 8. She finished the night with 20 points.
The game stayed close during the final frame, but Rutgers ran away with the lead after Guirantes muscled her way through two defenders and sank the layup. She followed the impressive display with an assist to Davenport as the shot clock expired. After review, the play was waved off, though. On the following play, a blocking foul was called on Sanders, and the home crowd made sure to voice its opinion.
The final minute included scores from both teams, but the Knights were able to maintain a comfortable lead.
Throughout the game, Virginia made runs at Rutgers' lead. “We started fouling a little bit in the first half,” Wallace said. “Then we just came back, and we had to settle down and focus on what we had to do."
The Knights look to continue the momentum against Southern on Thursday. It will be nearly three weeks since the Jaguars (2-4) played a game on Nov. 24, when they were dealt a crushing 93-39 defeat by Texas. Southern has yet to win on the road in four chances.
Although both of Rutgers' victories have been dominant performances, Stringer knows there is always work to be done.
“You always strive for the perfect game,” Stringer said. “You also realize they’re humans and they’re going to make mistakes. There are certain miscues that took place. There were unforced errors … We’re going to work hard."