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Rutgers women's basketball begins road trip with first Big Ten away victory at Minnesota

The Rutgers women's basketball team secured their second Big Ten win and 1,000th program victory in their win over Minnesota yesterday evening. – Photo by @RutgersWBB / Twitter

The Rutgers women’s basketball team collected their second Big Ten win and their first on the road at Minnesota as they defeated the Golden Gophers (8-8, 1-5) by a score of 65-59. With this victory, the Scarlet Knights (8-10, 2-4) are trending in the right direction with back-to-back conference wins.

Minnesota opened up scoring only four seconds into the first, setting the pace for the game. While the speed was high and there was much back and forth, scoring stayed fairly low through the first period of play. The Gophers led at the end of the first 10 minutes 13-9 over Rutgers. Forward Mallory Heyer scored 7 points for Minnesota in the opening quarter.

The Knights were outscored by the Gophers through the first half but prevented Minnesota from running away with a large lead. At halftime, the Gophers led by 5 points in a 26-21 game. 

Coming back from the break, Rutgers and Minnesota put up contending scoring drives, but the Gophers found the edge when a layup from forward Alanna Micheaux put them up by 9 points, leading 40-31. 

The Knights came back with 8 unanswered points, lessening their deficit to just 1-point. Rutgers led for the first time when freshman guard Kaylene Smikle capitalized after a steal and pass from senior guard Awa Sidibe and hit a layup at the 43-second mark of the third quarter, making the score 43-41 in favor of the Knights.

The score would be tied at 49 until Heyer drained a three-pointer. Freshman guard Antonia Bates traded that shot with a three of her own and the score was then tied at 52 at the 3:18 mark of the final quarter.

With 1:14 remaining in the game, Rutgers found itself up by 1-point. That small lead was extended by two after Smikle scored another bucket. The Knights would keep the lead from there as they ended the fourth with a 6-point lead to complete the comeback win on the road against Minnesota. 

Sidibe had a nice outing for Rutgers. The veteran led the team in minutes at 34, putting up 13 points while also going a perfect 5-for-5 at the free throw line with three steals. Sidibe has been a consistent presence for the Knights so far this season. 

Smikle had another outstanding performance on Thursday night. She scored a team-high 20 points, with 16 of those points coming in the second half. She also went 4-for-4 at the free throw line with six rebounds and two assists. The young guard is proving to be an important piece for this Rutgers squad in her first year. 

The victory also marked first year head coach Coquese Washington's 100th Big Ten win and the program's 1000th program win overall.

The Knights will continue their road trip this weekend as they travel to College Park, Maryland, to face No. 9 Maryland. Rutgers will be looking forward to this rematch after the Terrapins defeated it by score of 78-67 at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus just last week.  

The matchup will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+ as well as 88.7 WRSU-FM with tip-off scheduled at 1 p.m. for the Sunday afternoon matinee. 

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

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