Rutgers defeats Wisconsin to end small skid
Knights beat Badgers by 13 points
When the game started, it looked like the Rutgers women’s basketball team was heading down the path to another loss, and this time it would be to a team with a dismal conference record instead of a team that was nationally ranked. But unlike in previous games, it battled back and earned a big win.
The Scarlet Knights (19-9, 7-7) used a strong second-half effort to defeat Wisconsin (9-18, 2-12), 63-50. After finding themselves trailing at the half, they outscored the Badgers 40-22 in the final 20 minutes.
“This was definitely a big win,” said fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife. “We didn’t need to lose to Wisconsin, because that would have hurt going into the NCAA Tournament.”
Rutgers got off to a slow start, shooting less than 25 percent from the field, while Wisconsin shot more than 50 percent and led 17-8 after the first 10 minutes.
The Knights battled back in the second quarter, going on a 10-0 run to make it a 1-point game with 5 minutes remaining in the fist half. The Badgers outscored them 6-2 heading into halftime, taking a 23-28 lead into the intermission.
“We started off slow, and our teammates on the bench told us that we need to pick it up,” said junior forward Stasha Carey. “Once we discussed that, we started to play stronger and with more energy.”
Rutgers used an 8-2 run in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter to take its first lead of the game. The rest of the quarter was mostly back and forth, but fifth-year senior guard Kathleen Fitzpatrick made two late 3-pointers to give the Knights a 41-37 lead heading into the final quarter.
“I thought that Fitz did a great job,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “She demonstrated her maturity, being a senior, and she got steals, made passes and got herself ready for those shots.”
Rutgers continued to have the upper hand in the fourth quarter, holding a double-digit advantage from the 4.5-minute mark until the final buzzer.
Scaife led the Knights with 25 points, marking her 16th game with at least 20 points, and Carey joined her in double figures with 12. Fitzpatrick added a season-high 9 points.
Rutgers also kept Wisconsin off the boards, outrebounding the Badgers 37-25. Carey said it was important that the team hustled for rebounds and got them before Wisconsin did.
The defense forced 16 turnovers, the most since the upset victory over then-No 13. Michigan last week. Scaife, who had a season-high four steals, cited defensive play as the biggest factor for the team’s turnaround.
Scaife was not in the lineup to start the game, which was a rarity for her. Stringer said that it was because she was sick.
“She was throwing up before, but she thought that she could play,” Stringer said. “We gave her a couple of minutes to make a decision, and she decided that she wanted to go in and make a difference.”
The team's 63 points were its second most in the past month of action, a sign of a good offensive output on the night.
Stringer also lauded her lineup as a whole, as many players made contributions toward the victory, even despite the slow start.
“We played our starting group about 2 or 3 minutes, and then we brought in another group that was able to give us the energy and give the other group a breather,” she said. “It was a major contribution by everyone.”
The Knights’ next game is against Iowa next Wednesday, in what is their last home game of the season, as well as being Senior Day.
Losing to a team near the bottom of the Big Ten standings would have been a serious blow to Rutgers' NCAA Tournament hopes, but its ability to turn this game around and win after struggling will definitely impress the selection committee.
“One of our biggest goals is to make the NCAA Tournament, so locking down this win was huge, (especially since) we’ve lost games that we needed to win,” Carey said. “(Wisconsin) is a great team, so I’m happy that we came out with the win.”
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