No. 7 Rutgers' season comes to end against No. 10 Buffalo in 1st round of NCAA Tourney
A roller-coaster filled season came to an end Friday for the Rutgers women’s basketball team, as it fell to Buffalo 82-71 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Storrs, Connecticut on Friday.
"We want to thank our seniors. I told them a few minutes ago, we didn't talk about the game or what happened," said acting head coach Tim Eatman. "What (senior center) Victoria (Harris), (fifth-year senior forward) Stasha (Carey) and (graduate student guard) Charise (Wilson) did for Rutgers basketball and the Rutgers community is phenomenal."
The No. 7 Scarlet Knights (22-10, 13-5) found themselves shorthanded early. Graduate student guard Sierra Calhoun did not make the trip for personal reasons, said someone with knowledge of the situation, and true true freshman guard Noga Peleg Pelc left in the opening minutes of the game with an injury and did not return.
That left Rutgers with only two available guards in Wilson and true freshman guard Zipporah Broughton.
Broughton played a career-high 35 minutes, scoring 8 points on 3-10 shooting and passing out six assists.
The Knights trailed 27-21 at the end of the first quarter, but followed with a strong second quarter, outscoring the No. 10 Bulls (24-10, 12-6) 22-14 to go into the half with a 2-point advantage, 43-41. Things would continue to trend upward in the third quarter, with Rutgers opening on a 8-0 run to hold a 51-41 lead.
Buffalo then went on a 10-0 run to tie the game. After a lot of back-and-forth action, the Knights entered the final period with a 61-59 lead.
That is when the star power of the Bulls took over.
Buffalo came into the game with the nation’s second-leading scorer in Cierra Dillard (25.2 PPG), and she netted 20 points on 6-17 shooting while teammate Summer Hemphill scored a game high 23 points on 9-14 shooting.
The Bulls outscored Rutgers 23-10 in the final quarter to move on to the round of 32, where they lost 84-72 to UConn, the event host.
The Knights were led by Carey, who scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in her final collegiate game. She finished her career with 1,228 points between Pittsburgh and Rutgers. Sophomore guard Arella Guirantes was second on the team with 14 points.
"There has been a lot of challenges. A lot of you don't know it but we've been through a lot, especially without our coach," Carey said. "She has prepared us for it, working in day in and day out. The whole coaching staff coming together to make sure we are prepared for everything."
The game was tied at 69 with 4:55 remaining, and the only bucket that the Knights had the rest of the way was a Carey layup.
Sophomore forward Tekia Mack, who has really come on in the last month, scored 10 points.
“You either go down punching and kicking, or you lay down for the next team," Mack said. "We fought for as long as we could but things happen, it's March."
Rutgers finished the season with a 22-10 overall record. Notable returnees include Guirantes, Mack, Peleg Pelc and Broughton.
The team also has help on the way. Baylor transfer guard Alexis Morris will be eligible next year. Senior guard Khadaizha Sanders, who redshirted this year, will be eligible to return for her final year. Lastly, prized recruit from Alabama center Maori Davenport will be arriving to the Banks for her freshman year.
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