Rutgers falls to Northwestern in season finale

Knights lose on road to Wildcats

If there’s one thing to take away from the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s regular season finale, it’s that it will need to make a big impression in the Big Ten Tournament in order to safely make the NCAA Tournament.

The Scarlet Knights (19-11, 7-9) might have played better than the stat sheet shows, but a rough second quarter ended up dooming them to a 63-50 loss to Northwestern (11-19, 4-12) on Sunday. The Wildcats had a 9-2 run in the final 7 minutes of the half, and Rutgers wasn't able to come back.

“We just gave up our lead,” said fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife. “We had the momentum, and then we lost it.”

The Knights did start off the game on the right foot, taking advantage of multiple Northwestern turnovers, scoring 6 points on five turnovers. But, the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run in the final 3 minutes to take a 2-point lead, and would never trail again for the rest of the game.

The two teams exchanged buckets in the first few minutes of the second quarter, but Northwestern started to pull away as the quarter progressed, taking a double-digit lead with 4 minutes to go, and headed to halftime with an 8-point lead.

The key for the Wildcats’ early success was their second-chance points. Northwestern missed 20 shots in the first half, but collected 13 offensive rebounds and scored 16 second-chance points — 50 percent of their first half output. The Wildcats ended the game with a 47-28 rebounding advantage, which included a 20-14 edge on the offensive glass.

“We allowed so many second-chance points,” Scaife said. “We didn’t do a good job of boxing out and moving around on defense.”

Northwestern continued to increase its lead in the third quarter, and had a 14-point advantage at one point. Rutgers did try to claw its way back, but wasn’t able to get any closer than 10. 

It was a similar story in the fourth quarter, as the Knights used defensive pressure to go on a short run, but couldn’t pull within single digits. 

"We played really hard in the first, third and fourth quarters, but we let it slip away in the second quarter," Scaife said.

Scaife led the team with 17 points and junior forward Stasha Carey joined her in double digits with 10. 

Rutgers ends its regular regular season on a two-game skid that pushes it to a losing record in Big Ten play. 

While many players have cited a lack of focus for a lot of the losses recently, Scaife said that the big difference between the first and second halves of the season was how teams had more information on the Knights as the season progressed.

“The more games you play, the easier it is (for other teams) to scout you,” she said. “We have to find different ways to execute.”

The team entered 2018 with a 14-2 record and was as high as No. 19 in the Associated Press top 25, but it has lost 9 of 14 games since the start of the new year.

Rutgers now sets its sights on the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, where it is the ninth seed. It will face eighth-seeded Purdue on Thursday.

“We’re just going to get back in the gym and regroup,” Scaife said. “We’re going to be locked in and focused.”

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

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