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Rutgers captures 21st win of year

 – Photo by Benjamin Chelnitsky

The Rutgers women’s basketball team secured a victory in its last regular season game, defeating Iowa 78-74 in overtime yesterday. The Scarlet Knights (21-8, 11-7) strengthened their case for a bid in the NCAA Tournament, as they defeated a ranked opponent for the first time this season in the Hawkeyes (23-6, 14-4), who sat at No. 18 in the AP Top 25 poll at the time of the game on Sunday.

The first quarter saw Rutgers come out victorious in a back-and-forth battle for the lead, as numerous lead changes eventually led to the Knights coming out of the first 10 minutes with an 18-14 advantage. Junior guard Arella Guirantes, graduate student guard Khadaizha Sanders and junior forward Tekia Mack all contributed to the scoring effort, with each finishing the game tied for the team high of 17 points.

Rutgers as a team shot 7 of 24 (29.17 percent) from the field in the opening period, compared to Iowa’s 4 of 11 (36.36 percent) mark.

Come the second period, the Knights would keep their lead throughout, though the Hawkeyes eventually came within 1 off of a Makenzie Meyer jumper with 1 second left. Rutgers remained in the lead with some help from redshirt freshman forward Tyia Singleton, who contributed her 4 points on the day off of two layups in the quarter.

The Knights went into halftime up 30-27 with a chance to extend their lead even further in the next period.

After a layup from senior center Jordan Wallace to open the third, though, Iowa went on a 6-0 run, eventually grabbing a 33-32 lead with 7:12 minutes left in the quarter. Three possessions later, Rutgers was able to retake the lead off of a junior forward Mael Gilles three-pointer and kept the advantage for a majority of the rest of the period.

It was an impressive day on the boards for Wallace, who ended the afternoon with her first 10-rebound game since Jan. 30. Gilles also showed her prowess in the rebounding category, as she contributed a team-high 11 boards to go along with a 13-point effort.

To begin the fourth quarter, the Knights extended their lead over the Hawkeyes with a layup from Mack to make it 47-40 in favor of the home team. Iowa was able to crawl its way back, though, as it eventually tied the game up at 63-63 with 11 seconds left on a Meyer three-pointer. The two teams went into overtime with the score knotted after Guirantes was unable to convert on a jumper with 1 second left in regulation.

Overtime began with a turnover from each team. Rutgers was able to break the tie with a layup from Gilles and kept a steady lead for the remainder of the period. The win was capped off with a pair of free throws from Sanders, which gave her team a 7-point lead with less than 10 seconds left.

Head coach C. Vivian Stringer shared her thoughts on the Knights’ performance.

“That’s a great team we played, and we couldn’t be happier with the win,” she said. “It’s been a monkey on our back, so it was great to do what we needed to do today.”

Up next, Rutgers will head to the Big Ten Tournament, where it will seek to add on a couple more wins before the NCAA Tournament, which will begin on March 20. As of Sunday, the Knights are predicted to face Florida Gulf Coast in the league’s tournament, according to ESPN’s “Bracketology with Charlie Creme.”

The Eagles (27-3, 14-1) did not receive enough votes to be considered in the AP Top 25 Poll as of Sunday, but still played to a first-place standing in the Atlantic Sun. 

“We now know that we can beat anybody,” Stringer said. “We just need to play hard, stick with our game plan.”

For updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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