Rutgers drops third straight in overtime loss to Purdue
Neither Tyler Scaife’s game-high 23 points, nor Kahleah Copper’s 22 were enough for the Rutgers women’s basketball team Thursday night in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Despite holding a 3-point lead with under three minutes left in overtime, the Scarlet Knights (16-13, 7-10) were unable to knock off Purdue to capture a much-needed quality road win.
Instead, the Boilermakers (18-10, 9-8) beared down, retaking the lead with 1:24 left in the extra period and held on for a 74-68 win.
Rutgers bounced back after falling behind 29-20 at halftime, outscoring Purdue 25-13 in the third quarter to earn a 45-42 advantage heading into the fourth.
Finishing games had become a point of emphasis for the Knights of late, after losing several games where poor play in the fourth period was a major contributing factor, including their last two.
It appeared this was no different.
Midway through the fourth, Purdue held a 55-49 lead. The Boilermakers maintained control until Copper, Rutgers’ senior wing, banked in a layup to put the Knights within two at 57-55.
But with 59 seconds remaining in regulation, center Bree Horrocks knocked down a jumper for the home team to stretch their lead to 59-55.
Copper answered the call again.
The Philadelphia native drilled a 3-pointer to make it a 1-point game before the Knights were forced to foul.
Two free throws put Rutgers behind, 61-58, before senior Briyona Canty got a clean look for two quick points with nine ticks remaining, but she failed to convert.
Knights’ senior center Rachel Hollivay grabbed the rebound, took it back up and scored with the hoop and the harm.
Hollivay hit her lone free throw to tie it up at 61, sending the game to overtime.
The senior center posted a signature performance of her final season on the Banks, scoring 15 points, grabbing nine rebounds to go with one blocked shot.
With 2:02 left, Scaife was fouled with a chance to stretch the lead to five.
The junior guard entered the matchup shooting 84 percent from the charity stripe on the season, but this was no reflection.
Scaife missed both free throws and 38 seconds later, the Boilers took the lead, 67-66, on a pair of April Wilson free throws.
With less than one minute remaining, Dominique McBryde converted a 3-point play to put the Boilermakers up 70-65 and push the game out of reach.
In one fell swoop, McBryde padded the lead and fouled out Rutgers' leader.
Copper left the floor with 46 seconds left on the clock, taking the Knights' hopes of a signature road win with her.
It is likely that Purdue pierced Rutgers' NCAA Tournament bubble Thursday night, leaving only one game left on the regular season slate on Sunday, when Michigan comes to town in hopes of improving its own tournament resume.
The Knights received production from Copper, Hollivay and Scaife, Rutgers' big-3.
The problem was, head coach C. Vivian Stringer couldn’t get it from anybody else.
Hollivay, Scaife and Copper combined for 60 points. The rest of the Knights' roster managed only eight in total.
And that could be a catalyst for the bitterness of this particular defeat.
The only hope left for the Knights is a win over the Wolverines at the Rutgers Athletic Center, followed by a run in Indianapolis at the Big Ten Tournament.
A return home should be a positive for Rutgers as the Knights record stands at 10-4 at the RAC.
But they will end the season 3-9 in true road games, possibly the difference between dancing, and filling out brackets.