Rutgers looks to get momentum for Big Ten tournament against Ohio State on Thursday
Knights visit No. 13 Buckeyes with deja vu on their mind
After snapping a four-game losing streak and getting its first win over a ranked team in three years, the Rutgers women’s basketball team will be going for two in a row.
Coming off their upset over then-No. 13 Michigan on Sunday, the Scarlet Knights (18-7, 6-5) play current No. 13 Ohio State (19-5, 8-3) in Columbus on Thursday night, looking to pull off another stunner.
The team used a balanced offensive and defensive attack to keep the Wolverines at bay, and will have to do that once again if they want to defeat another Big Ten foe.
The Buckeyes are one of the best offensive teams in the country, and boast the third-highest scoring average in the nation at 86.3 points per game. In comparison, Rutgers has only scored more than that mark once this season.
But, the Knights do have the top-scoring defense in the Big Ten, allowing just 57.1 points per game. Ohio State, on the other hand, is last in the conference, allowing 72.3 points per game. All but 1 of its 5 losses saw it give up more than that total.
“We need to stay aggressive and put up as many points as possible,” said fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife.
Staying aggressive will be especially important against the Buckeyes since they have one the best players in the nation.
While Rutgers has faced many prolific scorers this season, it has yet to go up against a player who scores as much as Kelsey Mitchell. Not only is she tied for the second-highest scoring average in the country this season (24.2 points per game), but her 3,141 points are the eighth-most in NCAA history (and the most among active players).
Mitchell has been racking up accolades for her entire collegiate career. She has won 11 Big Ten Player of the Week awards (including three this season), two Big Ten Player of the Year awards and has been nominated for the Nancy Lieberman Award (given to the country’s best point guard) every year since she started playing.
Scaife, who is also one of the nation's top active scorers, has played Mitchell multiple times in the past and was quick to praise her.
“I think she’s a great player, especially offensively, and she’s having a great season,” Scaife said.
Behind Mitchell are Stephanie Mavunga (16 points per game), Linnae Harper (15.2 points) and Sierra Calhoun (11.5 points), who all add scoring threats for Ohio State. The Knights will have their work cut out for them when it comes to stopping this offense, especially on the road.
But, Rutgers does have confidence heading into the game after stifling Michigan’s offense. The Knights held Katelynn Flaherty, one of the top scorers in the Big Ten, to just 19 points, and only allowed 56 points overall, the lowest amount the Wolverines scored in conference play this season.
Prior to the win over Michigan, Rutgers found itself in a slump. There was a lack of focus during practice, and it showed during games. So after a big win like the one on Sunday, it will be important not to go back and revert to what led to recent losses.
But players don’t think that will be a problem this time around, as their last win energized them, brought them out of their slump and has them ready to play anyone.
“It feels a lot better because we won,” Scaife said. “We’re really confident, and practice has gone really well. We’re ready to get out there and play.”
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