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No. 17 Rutgers mounts 2nd half comeback to defeat Indiana

Last night the Rutgers women’s basketball team went head-to-head with Indiana at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) coming off a win against Penn State on the road. 

The No. 17 Scarlet Knights (17-4, 9-1) played against the Hoosiers (16-6, 5-5) in one of the closest games that they have played this season since their game against No. 13 Iowa. The home squad was able to send the visitor packing, securing a hard fought 69-64 comeback victory at the RAC.

“If a team is consistently playing man, then we can adjust to that," said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. "Isolate and then get the hit and not worry about continuity within the offense. Stretch it out a little bit. Which then, as time winds down, it makes them more anxious to get the ball back and there’s bound to be mistakes.”

The first quarter went in Indiana’s favor as it outscored Rutgers by 5 points, holding a 19-14 lead, after shooting only 5-15, but the Knights weren’t far behind. 

The Hoosiers were a dominating presence at the RAC from the beginning of the game. Although they led the first quarter, they looked calm and collected, and initially didn't get too excited. 

Junior guard Ciani Cryor was able to lead Rutgers in the right direction making the first two buckets for the team before a timeout was called. She was a powerhouse both on offense and defense, continuously attacking the basket and drawing the fouls. 

After the first half, Cryor led the team in total points with 11. 

Indiana had a large number of players perform well on the court, giving it the advantage when it came to racking up the points. 

After the first half, the Knights' field-goal percentage was a measly 26.7 percent, while the Hoosiers left to the halftime locker rooms with a 36.7 shooting percentage. Both teams were tied for rebounds with 21, and were neck and neck with virtually every stat except for how many points were on the board.

Fifth-year senior forward Stasha Carey led with six rebounds in the first half followed by senior center Victoria Harris who totaled four. 

Cryor continued to lead Rutgers into the third quarter with 15 points, and ended the game with a staggering 22 points on her own. The 22-point mark was the highest of Cryor's career.

Freshman guard Noga Peleg Pelc was able to liven up the crowd when she hit a deep 3 off of a pass from Cryor midway through the third. Pelc has been shooting only 39.6 percent from the field but a solid 40 percent from the 3-point line.

Toward the end of the third, the Knights began to turn up their game and looked more in sync on offense than the previous quarters. Carey became more of a standout player in the third with a field-goal percentage of 44.6 percent. 

Senior forward Caitlin Jenkins was able to force the steal from the Hoosiers and then forced them into a 5-second violation. With four steals by Rutgers and five turnovers by Indiana in a matter of minutes, the Knights were able to end the quarter with things at just a 1-point game. 

Rutgers looked more like a complete team when it came to the second half. Its defense was more in tune as was its offense, which seemed to force points off of the Hoosier's defense through foul after foul.

After a technical foul by graduate student guard Charise Wilson, the fourth quarter turned into a 3-point game right off the bat, but that didn’t stop the Knights' defense, which took over the court immediately.

With 5 minutes left in the fourth, Rutgers took the lead thanks to free throws made by sophomore forward Arella Guirantes. Guirantes ended the night right behind Carey's nine rebounds with seven of her own and a 71.4 free-throw percentage.

The Knights led by 1 as Indiana lost its coordination as a team. But after a grueling last quarter, Rutgers came away with a win to remain in first in the Big Ten standings.

Coming up, the Knights head to Minnesota for a battle against the Gophers (14-7, 3-7) on Feb. 3.

“Foolishness creeps into the minds of young people,” Stringer said. “We have to be mentally tough, and you can’t let that get carried away with what you think you have. You have to know that it’s even more difficult to stay on top, and if you haven’t been there before, you can either take the advice of people who have been there or you’re going to have to learn the hard way.”

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

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