Rutgers gets ready for Round 1 of Big Tens
On Thursday, March 1 at noon, the Rutgers women’s basketball team will head to Indianapolis to take on Purdue in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Scarlet Knights are the ninth seed while the Boilermakers are the eighth seed.
Rutgers played Purdue twice this season, splitting games with them to go 1-1. The first time the teams met, way back on Dec. 28, 2017, was home at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).
In that game, fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife led all scorers with 23 points, while also adding six rebounds en route to a 58-50 Knights victory. Graduate student guard Nigia Greene dropped 11 points and junior forward Stasha Carey chipped in with 7 points and eight rebounds.
For the Boilermakers, they were led by Andreona Keys and Karissa McLaughlin, who each had 13 points.
Rutgers was able to win the game by winning the turnover battle, forcing Purdue into committing 20, while only turning it over 14 times itself. It also outrebounded the Boilermakers 42-37, and outscored them in bench points 21-2.
In the next game that these two teams met, it was a much different story. The Knights traveled to West Lafayette to take on Purdue on Jan. 10. They dropped the game to the Boilermakers 47-33 in what was their lowest scoring total of the entire season.
The team had no players who scored in double digits and Scaife scored a season-low 9 points on a dismal 4-of-15 shooting night. Rutgers was also 1-of-20 shooting from the 3-point line, a big reason why it lost, as it shot the ball 6-of-9 from deep in the first win over Purdue.
These two teams are similar. The Knights are 19-11 on the season, while the Boilermakers are 18-12. But, Rutgers has less conference wins, as it went 7-9 and Purdue went 9-7.
The Knights are also on a huge slide as of late, winning only 2 games out of their last 10.
Someone who Rutgers is going to have to game plan around is Ae’Rianna Harris. Harris just received the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award, as she boasts some of the top defensive statistics in the country.
She has 92 blocks, 36 steals and 264 rebounds, while still being only 1 of 4 players in the nation averaging at least 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks per game.
The Knights have some firepower of their own, as Scaife was named to the First Team All-Big Ten team by both coaches and media. Scaife averages 19.7 points per game, has 17 games where she has scored more than 20 points and is just 11 points shy of moving into second place on the Rutgers women’s basketball all-time scoring list.
Carey also received praise this week, as she was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, after averaging 7.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. She will certainly have a tough matchup on Thursday, as she will be squaring off against Harris down low.
When you take a look at a few key statistic categories, it gives you a glimpse at how the Knights could win this game, and it’s going to have to be defensively. The Boilermakers shoot better overall than Rutgers (44.1 percent to 41.2 percent), as well as from 3-point range (35.8 percent to 28.6 percent).
But, the Knights lead Purdue in many key per game stats — rebounds (36.7 to 34.3), steals (12.1 to 7.3), blocks (5.2 to 5.1), opponents' points (59.3 to 62.7) and forced turnovers (20.2 to 14.4).
If Scaife can carry Rutgers just as she has done all year with a 20-plus point game, look for the Knights' defense to bear down and force turnovers on the Boilermakers all game long. The one thing Rutgers cannot do is shoot the ball at a 26.8 field goal percentage as it did in the loss to Purdue earlier in the season.
If the Knights win the game, they will play top-seeded Ohio State the following day at noon. Last year Rutgers exited the tournament in the first round of play-in games as the very last seed. This year, a win would give them 20 on the season and bolster its resume as a bubble team to make the NCAA tournament.
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