Rutgers looks to regroup at Penn State this weekend

After having its 10-game winning streak snapped on the road against Iowa, the Rutgers women’s basketball team will head to University Park, Pa. this Sunday to take on Penn State (9-9, 2-5) as they look to stay on top of the Big Ten standings. 

The No. 14 Scarlet Knights (15-4, 7-1) were riding high heading into Iowa City, undefeated in conference play, but were outpaced by the Hawkeyes (15-4, 6-2), falling 72-66 on Wednesday. Rutgers had a chance to create some distance in the Big Ten standings with a win over Iowa, but the Hawkeyes' Megan Gustafson pushed her team just over the Knights by contributing 32 points in the win.

With 1:28 remaining in the game, Iowa's Hannah Stewart gave the Hawkeyes a 65-62 lead with a layup. On the other end of the floor, she blocked sophomore guard Arella Guirantes's layup with 35 seconds remaining to seal a win for Iowa.

The Hawkeyes now sit just under Rutgers in the standings with an identical 15-4 record as they stay undefeated at home. For the moment, the Knights are still in first place by virtue of being one game ahead in conference record. 

Fifth-year senior forward Stasha Carey led Rutgers in scoring with 17 points and contributed six rebounds as well. Junior forward Caitlin Jenkins led the team with seven rebounds. Gustafson was the difference maker on the court Wednesday as she led the game in scoring and rebounds with 12. 

Gustafson, who came into the game averaging 26.2 points per game, scored 32 points on an extremely efficient 13 of 16 from the field to lead No. 17 Iowa to a victory over the No. 14 Knights.

"(Gustafson) is the best that I’ve seen. She’s truly the best center in the country,  bar none. The beautiful part about Gustafson is she runs. She played 35 minutes. She did everything on both ends of the floor. We had no answer for her. None," said head coach C. Vivian Stringer.

Rutgers will now look to take on the Nittany Lions (10-9, 3-5) it already beat in Piscataway, N.J. earlier this month by 74-61. Guirantes led the team in scoring with 24 points. Penn State’s Teniya Page nearly matched Guirantes with 23 points. 

The two teams split the season series last year with each team winning at home. The Knights held off the Nittany Lions at the Rutgers Athletic Center 70-65 in last year’s first meeting. In the second meeting, Rutgers took on Penn State at State College, Pa., a series of last-second free throws by Page led the Lions to a 70-67 victory over the Knights. 

Rutgers will be going back to Pennsylvania to take on the unranked Nittany Lions that are reeling after back-to- back losses. The Knights make up the team with more to play for in this game, as they're pushing for a Big Ten title as well as qualification for the NCAA Tournament. 

Containing Page will be key for Rutgers in this matchup, as the Penn State player is averaging 20.2 points per game. Other players the Knights will need to look out for are Jaida Travascio-Green, who ranks 13th all-time in the Nittany Lions' history for 3-pointers made, and Alisia Smith, who's averaging 7.4 rebounds per game.  

This game will also feature a meaningful matchup between 2 of only 4 head coaches in Big Ten history to win three or more consecutive regular season conference championships. Earlier this season, Stringer became the first Black woman to win 3,000 games as head coach in NCAA women’s basketball history, and Penn State head coach Coquese Washington is the first Black female head coach in the school's history. 

Rutgers now heads into the final month of the regular season in a race with Iowa for a regular season conference title, and a Big Ten win on the road would be huge for the Knights that have been dominant at home this season. 

After the Nittany Lions, Rutgers will play 3 out of their next 4 games at home, including a rematch with Maryland, who the Knights defeated earlier this season when the Terrapins were ranked fourth in the nation. 

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

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