Rutgers overcomes 14-point deficit to take down NC State
Scaife leads all scorers with 27 points in Knights' 6th win of season
While the Atlantic Coast Conference has dominated the Big Ten on both the men’s and women’s sides of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Rutgers women’s basketball team refused to be a part of that narrative last night and came away with a hard-fought win.
The Scarlet Knights (6-2) overcame a rough first quarter and a half to defeat North Carolina State (6-2), 57-53, matching last season’s win total in just eight games. After a big Wolfpack run in the second quarter, Rutgers grabbed momentum heading into halftime and never looked back.
“It was a good game on both ends,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “I thought that we continued to get stronger as we got further into the game.”
NC State had a 2-point advantage after the first quarter, as it had the lead for the beginning and end. Neither team could find consistency when it came to shooting, as they both combined to go 9-for-32 from the field.
The Wolfpack controlled the second quarter early, as they went on a 16-4 run in the first 4 minutes and took a 14-point lead. This forced Stringer to call two timeouts and switch up her defense. After the stoppages, the Knights gained control, going on an 11-0 run over the final 4:07 and headed to the locker room trailing by just 3.
“The first defense was pushing the full length of the floor, and we weren’t getting where we needed to go,” Stringer said. “In the other defense, we didn’t press them at all and went into a zone. It allowed us to be more efficient offensively and broke the momentum.”
With the newfound momentum and a small deficit, Rutgers managed to keep pace with NC State throughout the third quarter and took its first lead since the first quarter with a minute to go, finishing with a 39-38 lead. The defense was strong, holding the Wolfpack without a field goal for the final 5:11.
“Everybody’s going to go on a run at some point (in basketball),” said junior guard KK Sanders. “Theirs happened to be in the second quarter, but we adjusted well after that, went on our run and got the momentum back. In the third quarter, we finally made our push.”
The Knights continued to keep the pressure on NC State throughout the fourth quarter as well, leading for almost the entirety of the frame. They allowed just one field goal in the first 5 minutes, and four overall.
Tyler Scaife led Rutgers in scoring for the seventh time this season, scoring 27 points in a season-high 35 minutes. It was the fourth time this season that she scored at least 20. More importantly, she moved into seventh all-time in scoring in program history, yet she was quick to say that wasn’t her top goal this season.
“I’m trying to get coach her 1,000th win, so let’s keep the attention on that,” she said.
Sanders was also a major part of the Knights’ performance in the fourth quarter, scoring several clutch baskets, including a 3-pointer that put them up 7 points with 5 minutes remaining.
“It was one of those times where we went on a dry stretch for a little bit, and we needed something, so I think it was a big push for us and got us a lot of momentum,” she said.
Like most games, Rutgers generated a lot of pressure on defense, stealing the ball 12 times and forcing 22 turnovers. It managed to turn the staunch defense into offense, generating 21 points off turnovers. For contrast, the Knights themselves only had 10 turnovers, which led to just 4 NC State points.
A looser defense also meant that they took less shots, but that did not stop them from producing offensively.
“We had 55 shots today, and we’ve been taking around 65-75 shots per game,” Stringer said. "The good thing about this is that we now know that we can execute if we don’t get the layups and the breaks that way.”
Rutgers returns to action Saturday afternoon when it hosts Siena.
If there was one thing the Knights proved last night, it was that slow starts don’t matter as long as you finish hard, and that’s exactly what they did.
“A win is a win, and we gutted it out,” Stringer said.
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