Rutgers beats Purdue to advance to 3rd round of Big Ten Tournament
Knights set to face No. 1 seed Ohio State on Friday
Although it is not quite NCAA tournament time yet, the No. 9 seed Rutgers women’s basketball team survived a fourth-quarter surge to fend off No. 8 seed Purdue in the second round of the Big Ten Championships to advance to the quarterfinals, winning the game 62-60.
The win is the 20th of the year for the Scarlet Knights, moving them to 20-11 on the season and 8-9 in Big Ten play. It is also win number 997 for head coach C. Vivian Stringer, inching her to just three wins away from 1,000 career-coaching victories all-time.
Down by 9 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Boilermakers outscored Rutgers 21-14 in the final quarter, but came up just short of making up the 9-point gap. Purdue went on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 58 apiece before the Knights were able to secure the 62-60 win.
In the game, fifth-year senior guard Tyler Scaife led all Rutgers scorers with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and also scored the winning basket.
Junior center Victoria Harris had a fine game as well, adding 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in the victory, while junior forward Stasha Carey was also a key factor, putting up 9 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
“We hit some key shots, but we let it get away from us, we started turning the ball over,” Scaife said to the Big Ten Network after the game. “We got a lot of paint shots because we’ve been focusing on rebounding, so our post players were doing a better job of getting shots closer to the basket and getting rebounds and putting them in.”
A huge reason the Knights were able to win the game was that they outscored the Boilermakers by 10 points inside the paint.
Of course, Stringer had the perfect game plan for Rutgers to beat Purdue, and Scaife talked about that as well.
“Coach said in Big Ten play we weren’t really playing well on the defensive end, so we’ve been focusing on nothing but defense,” Scaife said. “We didn’t really touch a ball at practice this week, so I feel like that showed today, we played with a lot of pride and our defense is the reason we won the game.”
Boilermaker Dominique Oden led all scorers in the game with 25 points. She also had help from her teammates Ae’Rianna Harris who had 10 points and eight rebounds, and Karissa McLaughlin who had 13 points and four assists.
The win on Thursday avenges the Knights' previous loss to Purdue back on Jan. 10, when they lost 47-33 in their worst offensive performance of the entire season. Rutgers has also now won the season series against the Boilermakers, going 2-1 on the year.
With the win, the Knights will move on to face the top-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes (24-6, 13-3) in the next round of the tournament, which will take place on Friday at noon. Rutgers lost to Ohio State earlier in the season on the road, 90-68.
In that game, Scaife had 27 points and seven rebounds, but the next highest scoring player on the Knights was Carey with just 8 points.
The Buckeyes were led by Kelsey Mitchell, who had 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting, and was 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Ohio State was also aided by three other players in double figures.
Of course, the win against Purdue definitely helps Rutgers’ stock in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament, as it is now considered a bubble team by ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme. Creme currently has the Knights projected as an 11 seed, taking on sixth seed South Florida in the first round in Knoxville.
If Rutgers is going to want to pull off the huge upset tomorrow, two staples of its team must show up to play — Scaife, and its defense, which was absent the last time it squared off against the Buckeyes, allowing them to shoot 56.1 percent from the field.
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