Rutgers goes for 20th win of season in finale

Knights to go on road to Northwestern on Sunday

The Rutgers women’s basketball team has a chance to win its 20th game of the season this Sunday, playing the final regular-season game on the road at Northwestern. 

With a win, the Scarlet Knights can improve to 20-10 on the year, which would be 14 more wins than last season's 6-24 mark. A win on the road would also even their conference record at .500 for the season, as they currently are 7-8 in Big Ten games.

Their opponent, the Northwestern Wildcats, are currently 10-19 on the season and just 3-12 in Big Ten games. The three Big Ten wins come against Wisconsin once and Illinois twice. Rutgers has beaten both the Badgers and the Fighting Illini each one time this year. 

After a historic Senior Night in which fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife scored a career-high 30 points in an overtime loss to Iowa, the Knights will look to rebound strong on the road to close out their season. 

A win would secure Rutgers as the ninth seed in the Big Ten Tournament, while a loss could move it into the 10th seed if Penn State wins its final game. The Nittany Lions play a formidable foe in Nebraska, so things look good for the Knights to secure the ninth seed for the Big Ten. 

Northwestern has three scoring options that Rutgers must defend if it's going to win the game. Lindsey Pulliam, the Wildcats leading scorer, averages 14.3 points per game on 39.1-percent shooting. Northwestern’s second leading scorer is Abi Scheid, who averages 12.4 points per game and has made a team high 37 3-point field goals. 

Perhaps the Wildcats' most impactful player is Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, a 6-foot-2-inch junior from Nigeria. 

Kunaiyi-Akpanah averages 11.4 points per game, but also leads the team in multiple other categories. She hauls in 11.6 rebounds per game, and leads the team in field goal percentage (55.9), blocks (32) and steals (50). 

With the Big Ten Tournament right around the corner, it is imperative that the Knights finish the season strong on the road, against a Northwestern team that they should beat. A win would give Rutgers momentum heading into the first round, where it would most likely face either Michigan, Purdue or Indiana. 

A 20-win season for the Knights would also put head coach C. Vivian Stringer only three wins shy of 1,000 career-coaching victories, as she currently sits at 996.

Win number 1,000 could potentially come in the Big Ten Tournament if Rutgers makes it to the finals, as it would need three wins in the tournament to make it there. The historic win total could also come in the first or second round of the NCAA tournament, depending on how many games the Knights win in the Big Ten Tournament beforehand. 

After the game Sunday, Rutgers will have a few days off before traveling to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament, which takes place from Feb. 28 to March 4. 

For updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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