Coming in on a nine game win streak, Rutgers was slow in establishing itself against the visiting Illini. But once the Knights got rolling, it was a steady extension of the lead, giving the Knights a resounding 76-37 Big Ten victory. The Knights go to 15-2, 3-0 B1G, while Illinois falls to 9-8, 0-3.
The win was C. Vivian Stringer’s 992nd win as a head coach.
The RU defense has turned up the pressure this season and currently leads the Big Ten in scoring defense holding opponents to just 54.7 points per game. In this game, Illinois controlled the opening tip, but Rutgers made a statement on its first two defensive stands, forcing Illinois to take almost the entire shot clock and coming away with no points. The pattern continued through the first quarter as the Illini had at least four trips down court using almost all the 30 second clock.
Illinois was stronger on the boards in the early going, especially so on defense, giving RU several early one-and-done possessions. Sloppy play also plagued both teams in the early going, with 11 combined turnovers (Ill 6 RU 5). But the Knights picked up off the glass - especially on defense - and that led to scores. More on that below.
Rutgers was scoreless for almost five minutes to open the game until CC Cryor broke the scoring drought at 5:18 of the first. She then stole the ball for two and the tie 11 seconds later. It set Rutgers on a positive run through the first half. As the first period ended, Gia Greene hit a three at :57 to put RU up by two. Tyler Scaife hit a running layup - almost a desperation shot - for her first points as time expired giving the Knights the five point lead after one. She also hit the free throw on the “and one”.
While Rutgers was shooting a light 33% in the half, the Illini were far worse, hitting only 17% from the field. Which led to a 14 point lead for the Knights after the first 20 minutes. But it felt like a sneaky lead, as it was as much Illinois’ sloppy play (12 turnovers) as it was Rutgers’ aggressiveness (13 points off turnovers, four fast break points, eight steals) that extended the margin.
While Alex Wittinger leads the Illini in scoring (13.1 ppg), she was held to just two in the first half (1-3); her second half was far better as she had almost half of the visitors’ points (16). Tyler Scaife, Rutgers’ leading scorer on the season, was also cold in the first half with just three points on 1-8 shooting, including 0-2 from beyond the arc. Grad transfer Gia Greene led Rutgers with 18 points.
Scaife found her range in the second half - as did the rest of the team - scoring six quick points and helping the Knights to put the game away. She hit two jumpers in the first three minutes and RU went on a 6-0 run putting the Knights up 38-19 at 6:25 of the third. Rutgers outscored the Illini 27-10 in the third to open a 55-24 lead. That pretty much was ball game.
The crowd was light; students are still on break and others may have decided to stay home due to the impending storm. Although the storm wasn’t scheduled to hit until much later in the night/early morning.
Illinois is a young team; there are only two seniors on the squad and none started against the Knights. The leading scorers for UI are underclassmen.
Illinois was held to 27 points under its season average of 64.8. That’s not a typo. The Knights found their shots in the game, shooting 46.8% while holding Illinois to just 28%. Tyler Scaife was held to a season low 13 points, putting her third with 1,969 points on the all time Rutgers scoring list.
- Top RU Scoring Averages Under C. Vivian Stringer
- 1. 70.0 (35 games) 1998-99 – 29-6 – Elite Eight
- 2. 69.2 (16 games) 2017-18 - 14-2 - Current Season
- 3t. 68.7 (32 games) 2014-15 - 23-10 - 2nd Round
- 3t. 68.7 (32 games) 1997-98 – 22-10 – Sweet 16
- 5. 67.3 (29 games) 2002-03 – 21-8 – 2nd Round
- 6. 66.2 (37 games) 2013-14 – WNIT Champions
- 7. 65.6 (31 games) 2000-01 – 23-8 – 2nd Round
- The Big Ten ranks No. 3 in Tuesday’s Collegiate Basketball News conference RPI index (found at RPIratings.com). What’s more, six Big Ten schools are among the top 50 in the team RPI rankings as noted by NCAA.com and Collegiate Basketball News. Rutgers leads the group at No. 6, followed by No. 7 Ohio State and No. 15 Iowa, with Maryland just outside the top 25 at No. 26. Michigan is next at No. 34, followed by Michigan State at No. 36, with Purdue knocking on the door at No. 51.
- The Big Ten has eight schools appearing in the top 50 of Tuesday’s Sagarin ratings, including five in the top 25. The conference contingent is led by No. 12 Maryland, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 20 Rutgers, No. 21 Iowa and No. 22 Michigan State. Also in the top 60 are No. 30 Michigan, No. 49 Minnesota and No. 60 Purdue.
- Coming into the game, as a team, Rutgers appeared in the top 25 in seven categories including leading the nation in total steals (207) and seventh in steals per game (12.9).
- Individually, redshirt senior guard Tyler Scaife leads the nation in field goals made (133), is second in total points (345) and fifth in field goals attempted (272).
The No. 25 Rutgers women's basketball team is back at home hosting Penn State on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 4:30 p.m. The game will air on BTN with Chris Vosters and Christy Winters-Scott on the call and will also be available on the Rutgers IMG Radio Network with Ralph Bednarczyk and Mark Peterson providing the call.