Rutgers takes down Ohio State behind Guirantes's heroicsPhoto by Benjamin Chelnitsky
The Rutgers women’s basketball team returned to the Banks to face Ohio State on Saturday and came out of the contest one step closer to its NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Scarlet Knights (19-8, 9-6), thanks in large part to a career game from junior guard Arella Guirantes, defeated the Buckeyes (17-10, 10-6) by a final score of 59-57 in a game that went down to the wire.
Guirantes, who finished with a career-high 36 points and the highest amount scored in a game for the program since Rutgers’ hall of famer Cappie Pondexter tallied 40 points in 2006, believed she knew what kind of a day she would have on the court come the end of the opening period.
"I think it was the first-quarter buzzer beater that I was like ‘okay, I’m feeling it a little bit,’” Guirantes said.
The buzzer-beater, which capped off a first period that saw five lead changes and plenty of back-and-forth play, led to the Knights taking an 18-12 lead into the second.
Rutgers then lost its lead in the ensuing quarter, as an Ohio State three from the hands of Dorka Juhász put up the Buckeyes by 4 with 8 seconds remaining and capped off a 22-point period for her team. Guirantes knew she would be able to help the Knights regain it, though, during the next half despite her 2-point second quarter performance.
“The second quarter, I kind of lost the attack but in the back of my head I said, ‘It’s gonna come back,’” Guirantes said. “'It’s gonna come back and it’s gonna come back at the right time.'”
In the third quarter, Guirantes seemed to have found her groove again as she scored 9 points, increasing her total on the day to 23 by the end of the period. Rutgers was unable to come back from an early 37-30 Ohio State lead, though and went into the final 10 minutes down 50-44.
After a little more than 6 minutes of play in the fourth, that saw the Knights inch back to within 1 point of the Buckeyes, junior forward Mael Gilles found room under the basket for a layup that brought the score to 52-51 in Rutgers’ favor.
With Ohio State threatening again in the final minutes, Guirantes took over as the Knights’ go-to ball-handler and scored her team’s next 5 points before the Buckeyes were able to tie it up again at 57-57 with 24 seconds remaining.
Fortunately for Rutgers, the team found itself in a situation that the game’s top scorer seemingly knew how to handle.
Dribbling out the clock until there were 4 seconds remaining, Guirantes pulled up just inside the arc, letting the contest’s deciding shot fly to give the Knights a game-clinching 59-57 lead.
“I knew that I was already on for the whole game and I was just like ‘you know what, just treat it like a regular rep’ — that last shot — and it went in,” Guirantes said.
With that basket, Rutgers clinched its 19th win of the season. One more victory would allow the Knights to be all but assured a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and with an upcoming game against Wisconsin, who is currently 3-14 in the Big Ten, they have an opportunity to extend their season into March through performances like Guirantes’s on Saturday.