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Rutgers falls at Northwestern despite comeback effort

 – Photo by Benjamin Chelnitsky

The Rutgers women’s basketball team lost at Northwestern last night by a final score of 82-65. The Scarlet Knights (18-8, 8-7) got thoroughly outplayed on both sides of the floor by the No. 18 Wildcats (23-3, 13-2), who are now a half-game behind No. 7 Maryland for first place in the Big Ten.

Rutgers kept the game close in the first quarter, trailing 16-14 by the end of it. As the game wore on, though, it had trouble keeping up with Northwestern’s shooting efficiency. Lindsey Pulliam (27 points) and Veronica Burton (23 points) both dominated for the Wildcats. Abbie Wolf (14 points) was lights-out, shooting 5 of 5 on field goals and 4 of 4 from the free throw line. She also led all players with eight rebounds.

The Knights got outscored 21-8 in the second quarter, and they could never claw their way back from the deficit. Northwestern led by as much as 30 points in the second half, thanks in large part to shooting 58.8 percent from the field. It also contained several Rutgers players on defense, including graduate student guard Khadaizha Sanders (4 points) and junior forward Mael Gilles (2 points). 

Even though Sanders didn’t have a big scoring night, she did lead the Knights with six assists. She is now just the 10th player in Rutgers women’s basketball history to dish out 400 career assists. 

Despite the large deficit, the Knights did not give up. They scored a season-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, opening the period with a 14-4 run. Be that as it may, the Wildcats then went on a 7-0 run to regain control and finish off the victory.

While Rutgers only had three less rebounds than Northwestern (29-26), it was lacking on perimeter defense and shooting efficiency. It shot 42.6 percent from the field and only 2 for 11 (18.2 percent) from beyond the arc. The Wildcats, on the other hand, made 10 three-pointers out of 20 attempts. 

Junior guard Arella Guirantes led the Knights with 19 points on 4 of 13 shooting from the field (30.8 percent). She now has 25 double-digit scoring games this season and 59 for her career. She also surpassed Brittany Ray (2006-10) as the 30th ranked all-time scorer for Rutgers with 1,156 points.

Senior center Jordan Wallace continued her recent run of strong play with 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting from the field (72.7 percent). She also grabbed three boards with two steals and a block. 

Junior forward Tekia Mack was the third Knights player to score in double figures (12 points). She also led the team with six rebounds, providing her usual physical presence on the glass. She also added two steals and one assist on the night.

Rutgers is now 0-3 against AP Top 25 ranked teams. Sitting in a three-way tie with Purdue and Michigan in the conference, it needs to prove that it can beat elite competition in order for it to separate from the pack. The Knights would earn a double-bye in the upcoming Big Ten tournament if they can get into the top four seeds.

Rutgers will look to rebound against Ohio State at the Rutgers Athletic Center on Saturday. 

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