Rutgers falls to Ohio State in Big Ten Tournament
Knights hope to make NCAA Tournament
Despite a loss in the conference tournament, the Rutgers women’s basketball team is assured of playing at least another game this season thanks to its body of work. The only question is: in what tournament?
The Scarlet Knights (20-12, 7-9) bowed out of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis with an 82-57 loss to top-seeded and No. 13 Ohio State (25-6, 13-3) on Friday.
“I thought that (Ohio State) played brilliantly. We tried to exploit their weaknesses, but we were just overpowered. They’re a tough team to beat,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer.
Rutgers now waits until next Monday to see if it will be an at-large selection in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Charlie Creme has it as a 10 seed and one of the “last four in” in his latest mock bracket. If the team ends up not making it, it will likely wind up in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) instead.
The Knights started off the game strong, holding a 12-11 lead halfway through the first quarter. That would be the last time they held the lead, though, as the Buckeyes retook the lead on the next possession and ended the quarter with a 25-19 lead.
“We’ve had tremendous growth, and I think that’s rather obvious by our record. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s enough to get the invitation that we would like to have," Stringer said. "The greatest thing you could ever hope for is to control your own destiny. We’ve had chances to control our destiny throughout the year, and we have to accept whatever it is.”
The team pulled within 2 points early in the second quarter, but Ohio State went on a 15-2 run from that point until halftime, heading into the locker room with a 15-point advantage.
The third quarter was when the Buckeyes really started to have the game in hand, outscoring Rutgers 26-7 in the frame and taking a 69-33 lead into the final 10 minutes. The Knights made 2-of-11 attempted shots during that span, while Ohio State made 12-of-22.
Rutgers managed to score 11 more points than the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter, but it was far from enough to come back and win.
Ohio State had four players score in double figures, with senior Kelsey Mitchell — the coaches’ selection for Big Ten Player of the Year — leading the way with 22. The Buckeyes shot 48.3 percent from the field and 46.2 from 3-point range.
Fifth-year senior Tyler Scaife led the Knights with 13 points, and was the only player to score more than 10. After sitting out last season with an injury and watching her team win only six games, she was excited for the possibility of postseason play, and doubted that this would be the last time she would suit up for Rutgers.
"We definitely think we’re going to the postseason, so we’re ready to take a couple days off and get back at it. It matters when you have to get up at 5:30 or 6 in the morning," Scaife said. "It matters when you don’t have a chance to even walk through the patterns of another team, especially one like Ohio State. It matters what kind of rest time you have between games in every sport.”
Still, she said it was a positive to prepare her team for a potential NCAA Tournament game.
If the Knights do end up in the NCAA Tournament, Stringer thinks that they will definitely present a challenge for any team they meet.
"I do believe that we’re really unique in our style. If I were another team, I wouldn’t want to play us. We have the capability of doing a number of things that can be nerve rattling to anybody that we’re playing. We’ll be grateful for the opportunity should we get it, and we’ll take advantage of it,” Stringer said.
For updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.