Rutgers claims 21-point win over MichiganPhoto by Benjamin Chelnitsky
Before yesterday’s matchup with Michigan, the Rutgers women’s basketball team had lost 5 of its last 7 games, with its most recent defeat coming at the hands of Michigan State on the Spartans’ (12-12, 5-8) home court.
The Scarlet Knights (18-7, 8-6) had been inconsistent over the past couple of games and had also been unable to win against certain teams that possessed an equal level of talent to themselves.
Against the Wolverines (16-9, 7-7), though, Rutgers was able to put on full display its potential that has been shown in earlier parts of this season, as it defeated Michigan by a final score of 62-41.
Though the contest saw three different lead changes within the first 9 minutes of play, the Knights were able to ultimately come out of the first quarter with a 6-point lead over the Wolverines that would be further built upon throughout the remaining three periods of the game.
Junior guard Arella Guirantes was one of the main contributors to her team’s early success, as she tacked on 6 points in the opening quarter. She ended the day with a team-high 24 points on a 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) mark from the field and also scored 9 of her team’s 13 points from the free throw line.
In the second quarter, Rutgers was able to extend its lead to 9 points and limited Michigan to 21 total points going into halftime. Junior forward Mael Gilles, who ended the contest with 14 points on a 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) mark from the field, chipped in two steals in the period. She ended the day with three and also tallied a season-high four blocks against the Wolverines.
Gilles, who was averaging approximately 6.5 points per game over her last nine contests coming into Sunday, scored her highest point total since Dec. 8.
After the game, Gilles spoke about her performance.
“Honestly, I just thought that (head) coach (C. Vivian) Stringer, she needed something else, somebody else to step up,” Gilles said. “And (junior forward Tekia) Mack’s been producing, (Guirantes) has been producing, (graduate student guard Khadaizha Sanders) has been producing … Today was just more about what I can do to help my team.”
In the third quarter, the trio Gilles mentioned contributed to the Knights’ ability to come out of the period with a 46-33 lead. Mack had 4 points, two rebounds and a block before being subbed out with a little more than 3 minutes left in the period, while Sanders tallied a steal and two rebounds in the frame. Guirantes also made her presence known to Michigan’s defense, as she accumulated half of Rutgers’ points in the quarter.
The Knights limited the Wolverines' offense for the majority of the final period. Michigan was unable to score in the frame until there were 2:31 minutes left in it, when Rutgers was already in possession of a 27-point lead.
The last two minutes ended with the Knights eventually securing the 21-point victory.
Stringer was satisfied with her team’s performance on the day and the outcome of what she described as a “must-win game.”
“It was the biggest game of the year, and we won it by playing together. Michigan is a very good basketball team and we did everything we needed to do to beat a team of that quality,” Stringer said. “Four players in double-digits, rebounding and defense. That’s what it took.”