Reaching the 70-point mark for the fourth-straight game, the Rutgers women’s basketball team recorded its fourth-straight win, this one coming by a score of 83-56 over Minnesota, the team's best offensive showing since coming back from its coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pause.
In the post-game press conference, head women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer said that the victory can be attributed to, “The energy, the attitude, the defense and the willingness to share the ball.”
The impenetrable defense the Scarlet Knights (9-3, 5-3) have become known for was displayed from their first possession, resulting in senior guard Tekia Mack drawing a foul. The change in possession led to the first points of the early 8-1 run for Rutgers.
Through the first quarter, Stringer used the same eight players she did in the victory against No. 21 Northwestern and added to them in the second quarter when true freshman guard Liz Martino sustained an injury. Martino did not return but remained on the bench.
Once the Golden Gophers (7-10, 6-9) were able to get the ball over half court in the opening frame, 9 quick points from deep slowed down the Knights’ opening.
Things ended well for Rutgers as freshman guard Diamond Johnson hit a deep ball from the wing to push the Knights’ lead to 21-16.
Fifth-year senior guard Arella Guirantes started the scoring in the second quarter with 4 straight points and, later on, brought Rutgers’ lead back to 10. Junior guard Stephanie Guihon logged her first minutes against a conference opponent on the Banks.
Going into halftime, the Knights led 38-28.
Johnson got the second-half scoring started for Rutgers with her third three-pointer of the night, this one coming from the right corner. The next points for the Knights came from the opposite corner on a shot from downtown put up by senior forward Mael Gilles, who finished with 9 points and five rebounds.
Following the quick 6 points, Rutgers forced two consecutive, 5-second violations as its defense was pressing.
Mack said her message to her team about defensive strategy was to, “make it hard for them to dribble.”
Although not scoring off either of those turnovers, the Knights were able to pick up a steal as well and, in the final 2 minutes, scored 10 points. The frame ended with an interception by Mack leading to a Guirantes side step on a defender in the paint and the final points of the quarter. Going into the fourth, Rutgers was leading 60-39.
With the press engaged on the other side of the court, Johnson continued her strong shooting night from deep, hitting two straight three-pointers, the second one coming off a dribble that left her defender on the floor. She finished with 26 points, her career-high. Eighteen came from behind the arc, as she shot 6-for-7 from three, giving her the highest three-point shooting percentage in the nation.
A 7-0 run with 4 minutes to go in the game brought in junior guard Destiny Marshall, who knocked down her first 4 points in Big Ten play. Johnson’s first miss from three came in the final seconds as the ball hit the front of the rim.
Mack swiped eight steals during the game. “When it comes to defense, I’m the head of the snake,” Mack said in the postgame press conference. She also had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Looking for their fifth-straight win, the Knights will take the floor this Saturday for a matinee matchup against Illinois. The Fighting Illini (3-14, 1-13) are hoping for a victory following a 103-58 defeat to Maryland. The blowout was the third straight loss for Illinois.
“We haven’t even played our best basketball, yet ... There's still a lot more to come,” Guirantes said.
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