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Rutgers advances to first-ever WNIT championship game

<p>Sophomore guard Briyona Canty was one of four Knights to finish in double figures last night, finishing with 12 points and 12 boards.</p>

Sophomore guard Briyona Canty was one of four Knights to finish in double figures last night, finishing with 12 points and 12 boards.

For the first time is program history, the Rutgers women’s basketball team is on the cusp of a WNIT Championship.

A tightly contested match much of the way, the Scarlet Knights pulled away late from South Florida to seize a 62-52 win in the semifinals last night in Tampa.

The Knights will play at UTEP on Saturday afternoon in El Paso, Texas, to decide the champion of the 64-team tournament.

Rutgers (27-9) produced its most offensively efficient outing of the tournament, shooting 49 percent from the field. Four players reached double figures.

Freshman guard Tyler Scaife finished with a team-high 22 points, while sophomore guard Briyona Canty contributed a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Defensively the Knights held USF (23-14) to 31.2 percent shooting from the field, including just 5-of-20 from long range. Rutgers also won the battle on the glass with a 44-35 rebounding advantage.

Following several first-half lead changes, the Knights brought a 30-28 lead into halftime and did not trail again.

After the Bulls hit a 3-pointer to cut their deficit to 40-39 with 10:24 remaining, Rutgers went on a 12-5 run to retain control of the game.

USF guard Courtney Williams converted a layup with 2:48 left to make it 53-51, Rutgers, before the Knights clamped down defensively and held the Bulls to just one point the rest of the way.

Junior wing Betnijah Laney gave Rutgers its first lead at 8-6 on a fast break layup with 16:16 left in the first half. Four more lead changes and several tie scores ensued before the Knights seized control in the second half.

Rutgers’ victory comes after a 1-1 season split with the Bulls.

The Knights’ loss came in Rutgers’ regular-season finale March 3 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, which dropped the Knights to fourth in the AAC and was a factor in their exclusion from the NCAA Tournament.

For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GregJohnsonRU. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

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