RU survives upset scare with tip-in
With only 110 seconds to go Saturday at Southern Methodist, the Rutgers women’s basketball team stared at its largest deficit of the afternoon.
The Mustangs led, 59-50. The upset was all but complete. SMU just needed to make its free throws.
Then the Scarlet Knights staged their biggest comeback of the season, pulling out a 65-64 win at the buzzer to further solidify themselves as the third-best team in the AAC.
With time expiring, freshman point guard Tyler Scaife drove the lane and heaved a lay-up.
Sophomore forward Rachel Hollivay, the tallest player on the floor, delivered a tip-in as the shot caromed off the rim to give Rutgers (18-5, 9-3) the win. Replay officials reviewed the shot and determined the ball left Hollivay’s fingertips with 0.1 seconds remaining.
Sophomore wing Kahleah Copper, who finished with a game-high 20 points, sunk two free throws at the 1:50 mark and converted a 3-point play after SMU (14-9, 5-7) missed a jumper to cut the lead to 59-55.
Then Mustangs guard Korina Baker missed the front end of a one-and-one after a quick foul by Copper.
The Knights went down the floor and Hollivay tipped in junior wing Betnijah Laney’s missed 3-pointer to pull Rutgers within two with 59 ticks left.
SMU did not relent, hitting 1-of-2 free throws before converting two more on an offensive rebound to build the lead back to 62-57 with 46 seconds left.
On the ensuing drive, Laney finally made her first 3-pointer after three failed attempts. Then sophomore guard Briyona Canty chipped in her own trey after two more missed SMU free throws with 18 seconds left, giving Rutgers its first lead since the 12:35 mark in the first half.
Mustangs guard Keena Mays redeemed her two missed free throws on SMU’s previous possession by delivering the game-tying and go-ahead buckets with five seconds to go after a shooting foul.
But the Mustangs’ inability to consistently hit shots from the charity stripe ultimately proved their undoing.
“They played their hearts out and executed the game plan,” SMU head coach Rhonda Rompola told The Dallas Morning News. “It all came down to [missed] free throws.”
SMU hit just 12-for-21 attempts from the line, while Rutgers, which is shooting just 64 percent on free throws for the season, converted 13-for-17. Copper sunk 8-of-11.
Three Knights finished in double figures for the 17th time this season.
Hollivay picked up her second-career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Scaife also hit double digits for the eighth time in the last nine games with 10 points.
Rutgers’ own early woes stemmed from 24 turnovers, one of its worst totals of the season. The Knights trailed for the majority of the opening period as Copper, the team’s leading scorer, tallied only 6 points before halftime.
But now with seven road wins, the Knights are finding ways to win even when they do not play their best basketball.
Rutgers is currently ahead of South Florida by one game for third in the AAC, which would set the Knights up for a favorable draw with a bye to the second round of next month’s conference tournament.
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GregJohnsonRU. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.