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Rutgers not out of NCAA Tournament berth

Last Saturday, the Rutgers women’s basketball team played No. 2 Iowa in its final game in the Big Ten Tournament. The No. 3 Scarlet Knights (22-9, 13-5) were able to come back from a 20-point deficit to give the Hawkeyes (26-6, 14-4) a close game, but inevitably flew home with a loss by 5 points.

“To our kids' credit, they fought back and they didn’t get knocked out,” said acting head coach Tim Eatman. “They kept up the fight. We started to believe a little more in ourselves. We hope the people at RU are proud of these kids.”

Sophomore guard Arella Guirantes was able to lead Rutgers with 16 points and a .500 field goal percentage. Guirantes made 6 of 6 free throws while grabbing two rebounds. She ended the season averaging 12 points per game.

Graduate student guard Charise Wilson and fifth-year senior forward Stasha Carey both played their last games as Knights. Carey followed right behind Guirantes with 14 points while also totaling seven rebounds.

Wilson topped the night with 10 points, three steals and also made both of her free throws.

The double-digit point deficit has been a recurring instance for the Rutgers, but this was the largest of the season. While previously the Knights were able to come back from such a large gap, this one was left unclosed.

“We’re gonna play hard regardless of whether we’re down 10 or 20 points,” Wilson said.

Freshman guard Noga Peleg Pelc was able to drain 4 3-pointers, giving her 14 points at the end of the game. Pelc has had a stand-out first season on the Banks and her future can only be brighter as she progresses.

At halftime, Eatman had to take over the role of head coach C. Vivian Stringer, which he seemed to master. From this 20-point deficit, he managed to motivate them to a close 5-point game at the end.

“Believe in what we’re doing,” Eatman said. “Look around at each other and say you got each other’s back and we’re gonna believe in the process. If we believe in what we’re doing, we’ll be fine.”

After the game, Eatman was nothing but positive about how Rutgers played. Their regular season may have not ended the way that they wanted it to, but the Knights never gave up — not this game or any game before.

While Rutgers doesn’t have anymore regular season games to play, its postseason may not be over. On Selection Monday, March 18, the Knights will find out the selections for the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at 7 p.m.

Iowa ended up as Big Ten champions, when they took on the No. 1 seed Maryland. The Hawkeyes won 90-76, with a blowout game in the last quarter.

Whether it was beating then No. 4 Terrapins, crushing then No. 17 Michigan State or coming back from a 14-point deficit to win against Indiana, Rutgers has had an impressive year against some tough competition. While not all games were successes, there was something to be learned from all of them.

“They not only have to believe in what they’re doing,” Eatman said. “They have to learn from this moment. Next time we play, we have to earn the right to play 40 more. No one’s going to give you anything else anymore."

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

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