Rutgers takes on 2nd-best team in Big Ten at RAC
After securing a victory at home against Michigan on Sunday, the Rutgers women’s basketball team will travel to face Northwestern tomorrow in what will be its last road game of the season.
The Scarlet Knights (18-7, 8-6), though having taken down an opponent that has seen a reasonable amount of success this season in the Wolverines (16-9, 7-7), will have to prepare for a program that has seen much more this year in the No. 19 Wildcats (22-3, 12-2).
Looking at the numbers behind Northwestern’s success this season, it is interesting to figure out exactly how the Wildcats have been able to secure victories against every team not named No. 12 DePaul, No. 19 Iowa or No. 7 Maryland.
While their top contributor is averaging a similar amount of points per game (PPG) as Rutgers’ junior guard Arella Guirantes, who is tallying approximately 19.3 PPG this season, Northwestern’s Lindsey Pulliam is bringing in 19.0 PPG this year at a less efficient rate from both the two-point range and beyond the arc.
She holds 37.6 percent and 33.3 percent marks in those respective categories. Guirantes, on the other hand, is averaging 40.3 percent and 36.5 percent from two and three-pointer range, respectively.
Further, outside of their starting lineup, the Wildcats are relying on a group of three players that have been taking the brunt of the workload with limited success. The trio of Courtney Shaw, Jordan Hamilton and Byrdy Galernik is averaging approximately 12.8 minutes per game and 4 PPG combined. They are also only grabbing approximately 1.7 rebounds per game combined.
The question that now arises is how Northwestern has been able to garner such an impressive record so far.
The schedule that the Wildcats have had this season outside of the four ranked opponents (they also faced No. 20 Indiana) can point to the reason why.
In conference play, aside from the contests with the programs included in the AP Top 25 poll, Northwestern has played Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska. Only one of these schools has a record above .500 in the Big Ten play, and although the Wildcats won each of those matchups, it’s worth noting that the level of talent faced was not the most challenging in the league.
The Knights, despite being in possession of an inferior record, have an opportunity to come out on top in upset fashion.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer believes her team is aware of its capabilities heading into the matchup with Northwestern, along with the following three games that Rutgers will play to finish out the season.
“If you think about it, we got Northwestern, we got Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa. So, let me just say, I’m not gonna give you something to fuel their fire,” Stringer said. “But we know within ourselves what we need to do and what we can do, and you’ll see. You’ll see — that’s what I’ll say. You will see.”
Come the end of regulation tomorrow night, the Knights will have shown their ability to compete with the second-best team in the conference, whatever the outcome may be.