The cold outside came inside with the Rutgers offense at the start of the game as the Knights shot just 16% in the first quarter. And it didn’t get much better through the first 20 minutes - or the game - with the Knights shooting just 29% in the half and only 31% for the game.
Despite that, Rutgers (13-2, 1-0) did enough to top Purdue in its Big Ten opener, 58-50 in front of 1,827 fans. The scarlet are on an eight game win streak.
Purdue (9-6, 0-1) was 4-2 over its prior six games, having beaten St. Mary’s in its last game 70-60 at home to win the Basketball Travelers Inc. Invitational.
The Knights did shoot 6/11 from beyond the arc, and that kept them close with the Boilermakers in the first half. In the first two quarters, Purdue had a fairly balanced attack with six of the eight who played scoring. Rutgers went ten deep on the day, with eight players in the scoring column, though with a heavy reliance on Nigia Greene (11) and Tyler Scaife.
Scaife found herself on the floor for only 14 minutes in the first half, something that Vivian Stringer had done before seemingly in an effort to spread the scoring and reduce the reliance on Rutgers third leading all-time scorer. She played all but two minutes in the second half and ended up as the Knights’ leading scorer for the game with 23 on the afternoon.
Purdue led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter. Purdue’s scoring leader, Andreona Keys, was, in fact, key for the visitors, reaching her season average at 13as the visitors put together a 5-0 run. Scaife broke the streak, along with Ciani (CC) Cryor hitting a three to slow Purdue’s run. The Knights did hold the Boilermakers’ leading scorer, Ae'Rianna Harris (13.5 ave) to just six points on 3/12 shooting.
Fouls were not an issue in the game with both teams shooting well from the line for the limited number of opportunities (PU 10/10, RU 14/17).
The back and forth affair was tied at 44 with 5:40 to go in the game. Both teams hit a drought, not scoring in almost three minutes. But Scaife hit a foul shot to put RU up by one, 45-44, and the Knights never looked back.
Seemingly minor moment in the game, Khadaizhia Sanders hit a basket at 3:20 to put RU up 47-46, her first points of the day. But it was the basket that sent the Knights on the run that would close out the contest.
Tight defense down the stretch turned a see-saw battle into a one-sided finish with the Knights scoring the last six points to close out the win.
On the Banks will update this story later with postgame comments.
This and that....
Tyler Scaife came into the game as the 17th leading scorer in the nation, averaging 21.2 ppg. With her 23 points today, she is just 69 points away from 2,000 for her career.
The Big Ten ranks No. 4 in Tuesday’s Collegiate Basketball News conference RPI index (found at RPIratings.com). What’s more, nine Big Ten schools are among the top 70 in the team RPI rankings as noted by NCAA.com and Collegiate Basketball News. Rutgers leads the group at No. 6, Purdue at No. 57
All 14 Big Ten schools will head into conference play with winning or .500 records, including seven programs that earned at least 10 wins in non-conference action.
Coming into today’s games, six Big Ten schools carry active winning streaks of four games or more, led by No. 15/14 Maryland (nine games), and No. 21/19 Michigan and Rutgers (both seven games). For Rutgers, it’s the Scarlet Knights’ longest winning streak since a 12-game string that began with their six-game run to the 2014 WNIT title and continued with the first six games of the 2014-15 season, their first in the Big Ten.
Up next for Rutgers: Sunday, Dec. 31 @ Michigan State, 4 pm - BTN2Go