The Rutgers women’s basketball team finished its run in the Big Ten Tournament after defeating Wisconsin 63-55 on Thursday and losing to No. 20 Indiana 78-60 on Friday.
The tournament was held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Scarlet Knights (22-9, 11-7) took the floor in the Big Ten Tournament for the sixth time in program history and entered as the fifth seed. The Badgers (12-19, 3-15) held the 12th seed.
Sticking with her usual starters, head coach C. Vivian Stringer opted to go with senior center Jordan Wallace, graduate student guard Khadaizha Sanders, junior guard Arella Guirantes and junior forwards Tekia Mack and Mael Gilles to start things off.
The first few minutes of the game showed two teams playing evenly. After not scoring for approximately 6:30 minutes, Guirantes pulled up on the left side from downtown to tie the game at 13 points with 5 seconds left in the first quarter. She finished the game with 27 points.
In the second quarter, graduate student guard Danielle Migliore took over. Her first points of the game came from deep and off a turnover. She followed them up 1:30 minutes later with another three. Rutgers’ next points came off a pass from Migliore to the streaking Guirantes.
Neither team built a significant lead, but in the last minute, Mack did what she does best and converted a free throw after drawing a foul. After the first 20 minutes, the teams were knotted at 17.
The only scoring in the beginning of the third quarter came from Guirantes, including a three to cut the Knights’ deficit to 1. Guirantes added a few more points before the end of the quarter, but Rutgers trailed 35-32 as time expired.
The last 10 minutes of the game were an offensive onslaught that propelled the Knights to victory. Early in the quarter and down by 1, Mack and Sanders combined for a successful passing play. Mack forced the ball from an opponent near the basket, before Sanders grabbed the loose ball and, in one motion, passed it behind her back to Mack for the easy 2 points.
Later, Migliore knocked down her third three of the game, and after defending a late surge by Wisconsin, Rutgers came out on top, beating the Badgers for the third time this season.
Stringer and the rest of the team weren’t satisfied with the start and knew they could produce more.
“What happened at the beginning is that we weren't nearly as impressive as we needed to be, but we did know that we had to step it up … it worked out for us," Stringer said.
The very next day, the Knights prepared to take on the Hoosiers (24-8, 13-5), seeded in the fourth spot. The higher-scoring game began with a battle of free throws. After that, Indiana scored 9 straight points, followed by a basket for Rutgers off a Hoosier turnover. Guirantes hit a three two possessions later and would go on to score 30 points in the game. She broke the tournament record for successful free throws with 15. The quarter ended 20-17 in favor of Indiana after Sanders hit a late jumper.
The Hoosiers kept the offense coming and managed to gain a double-digit lead. Sanders pulled the Knights within 8 after she knocked down a three. At the half, Indiana led 38-30.
Sanders kept the scoring going in the third frame. After she scored 4 points, though, the Hoosiers built a 15-point lead. As the fourth quarter started, Rutgers seemed like it was making a comeback, but yet another scoring drought weighed it down. Gilles hit a deep ball, but Indiana kept the points coming and was able to walk out with a victory.
The Hooisers had 24 points from turnovers compared to the Knights’ 9 points, and for only the sixth time this season, Rutgers was outscored in the paint.
Sanders was able to rationalize the loss.
“The conference is tough, and playing Indiana got us prepared for the next level, which is going to the NCAA Tournament,” she said.
The Knights will know their future for the tournament on March 16th, Selection Monday.