Rutgers uses second-half surge to advance to WNIT semis against USF

<p class="p1">Sophomore wing Kahleah Copper led Rutgers with 14 points in the Knights’ win last night at the Stroh Center. The victory sends RU to the semifinals, where it will face South Florida tomorrow in Tampa.<span class="s1"></p>
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Sophomore wing Kahleah Copper led Rutgers with 14 points in the Knights’ win last night at the Stroh Center. The victory sends RU to the semifinals, where it will face South Florida tomorrow in Tampa.


After struggling to secure a lead for the first 24 minutes last night in Ohio, the Rutgers women’s basketball team went on a 15-0 second-half run to pull away from Bowling Green and secure a 55-50 victory in the WNIT quarterfinals.

The Scarlet Knights (26-9) advance to the semifinals of the 64-team event, where they will face AAC-rival South Florida (23-12) tomorrow night in Tampa. The winner will play in Saturday’s championship at a site yet to be determined.

The Falcons (30-5), meanwhile, dropped their first home game at the Stroh Center this year following a previously unbeaten 16-0 mark.

After a Bowling Green jumper with 17:20 left in the second half made it 29-25, Falcons, sophomore forward Rachel Hollivay scored a layup on an assist from junior wing Betnijah Laney to start Rutgers’ surge.

Less than two minutes later, the Knights grabbed their first lead, 31-29, on a jumper from sophomore wing Kahleah Copper and never looked back.

The Falcons halted Rutgers’ 15-0 run with 12:10 left to cut the deficit to 40-31, then went on a 9-0 run of their own to bring the game within one possession with 5:52 left.

Bowling Green hung around and trailed just 51-48 with 1:47 left, but missed a critical layup with 59 seconds remaining. A jumper from Laney 30 seconds later sealed the Falcons’ fate.

Copper led the Knights with 14 points on 53.8 percent shooting from the field, while freshman guard Tyler Scaife shook off a slow start to add 13 points.

Defensively, Hollivay controlled the paint with nine rebounds and a game-high four blocks.

For Rutgers and South Florida, Wednesday’s semifinal marks the third meeting this season between the two foes.

The Knights prevailed in Tampa, 66-53, back on Dec. 28, while the Bulls spoiled Rutgers’ regular-season finale March 3 with a 60-51. 

That loss dropped the Knights to the fourth seed in the AAC Tournament, where it ultimately fell to No. 1 Connecticut in the semifinals. 

Both teams just missed qualification for the NCAAs, and now their paths come full circle.

 

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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