Rutgers wins third straight in Champaign against Illinois
Two seniors posted double-doubles to help the Rutgers women's basketball team beat Illinois (8-17, 1-13) in Champaign by a score of 63-56, stretching the Scarlet Knights (16-10, 7-7) winning streak to three.
Senior wing Kahleah Copper scored a team-high 17 points and added 10 rebounds to notch her ninth double-double of the season, propelling Rutgers one step further in its quest for an NCAA Tournament berth at the conclusion of the Big Ten Tournament.
Senior center Rachel Hollivay scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for her second consecutive double-double effort.
Hollivay expanded her Big Ten Conference lead with four blocked shots, giving the school’s all-time blocks leader 90 swats in 2015-2016.
Copper scored 7 of her team's first 9 points, helping the Knights to mount a 16-10 lead after the first quarter.
Rutgers doubled the Illini's offensive production in the second quarter, building a 16-point lead as the teams headed to the locker room for halftime.
Illinois outscored the Knights in both the third and fourth quarters, but Rutgers held on to get back to .500 in conference play, a point of emphasis for the NCAA Tournament's selection committee.
It certainly wasn't the most polished performance put on display by Rutgers this season, but the visitors did enough to win.
The Illini out-rebounded the Knights 43-38 and Rutgers turned the ball over 11 times, but Illinois was unable to capitalize on their advantages until it was too late.
The Knights outscored their hosts in points in the paint (28-26), points off turnovers (12-9) and fast break points (8-2)
Junior guard Tyler Scaife dropped 16 points despite an off-night in shooting.
Scaife went 5-for-15 from the floor after entering the game with an average field goal percentage of 49.4 percent.
Copper was only slightly more efficient, shooting 42.8 percent (6-of-14), but her ability to scrap for rebounds and score when the Knights needed it was what allowed Rutgers to walk away with the win.
Illinois center Chatrice White did all she could to keep her team in the game.
White scored a game-high 26 points and matched Hollivay with 11 rebounds in defeat. The Illini's next highest scorer, Kyley Simmons, had 10 points and eight assists, proving their failure to really get anyone other than White going offensively.
The circumstances appear to be ideal for Knights' head coach C. Vivian Stringer who, despite the outcome, will be able to press her players for a better effort.
The next two games will go a long way in determining Rutgers fate in 2015-2016.
Rutgers returns home for likely their toughest opponents for the remainder of the regular season, matching up with No. 17 Michigan State on Thursday at the Rutgers Athletic Center, before welcoming the Big Ten’s best, No. 5 Maryland, to the RAC on Sunday afternoon.
With 16 wins in the 2015-2016 season, the Knights will need at least a split of their final four regular season games, accompanied by two wins in the conference tournament to hit the magic number — 20 wins. Rutgers’ RPI currently sits at 42, the Knights will likely need to vault into the top 35 to earn a second consecutive NCAA Tournament selection.