The No. 6 seed Rutgers women’s basketball team’s season ended in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a loss to No. 11 seed BYU by a score of 69-66.
Playing in the West Coast Conference, the Cougars (19-5, 13-3) lost in the conference tournament championship to Gonzaga. The Scarlet Knights (14-5, 10-3) fell in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament to eventual runner-up, Iowa.
Immediately following the opening tip-off, BYU grabbed an early lead but wasn’t able to establish a scoring run as head coach C. Vivian Stringer’s defense forced steals and a block. Stringer brought experience to the national stage as this is her 28th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Due to late pressure in the first quarter, after the first 10 minutes Rutgers grabbed a 2 point lead.
The Cougars began a scoring streak nearly midway through the second quarter but freshman guard Diamond Johnson hit the Knights’ first shot from three-point range. Fifth-year senior guard Arella Guirantes added the next points that gave Rutgers a 30-24 lead at halftime. The Knights finished the half on a 10-0 run.
Senior guard Tekia Mack helped Rutgers get its biggest lead of the game in the third quarter with the Knights second make from deep. After starting the second half with 13 points in approximately 4 minutes, Rutgers found itself in a scoring drought that was ended with a successful and-one from Mack.
Guirantes then found the basket from the left wing, one of five Knights connections from downtown. Heading into the last 10 minutes of play, Rutgers was up 50-43.
A 6-0 run from BYU to start the final frame forced Stringer to use her first timeout. A four minute scoreless streak for the Knights gave the Cougars their first lead since the second quarter. Guirantes ended BYU’s 12-0 run and brought Rutgers within one.
A late three from freshman guard Liz Martino wasn’t enough as the Knights’ season came to an end in San Marcos, Texas.
In what may be her last game for Rutgers, Guirantes finished with a team high 30 points and hit both of the threes she attempted during the game. Johnson had 13 and Mack finished with 11, with these being the only three players to have double-digit scoring. Sophomore forward Tyia Singleton led the Knights with seven rebounds.
“It’s special, it’s super special,” Guirantes said when looking back at her time on the Banks. “I just hope Rutgers fans know that I gave it everything that I got, and I’m going to continue that.”
With three seniors in its starting lineup, Rutgers will look to its younger players for their impact on the floor next year.
“This is not a new thing for the Scarlet Knights,” Stringer said. “We’ve reached Elite Eights, Final Fours, we’ve done those things.”
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