The Rutgers women’s basketball team entered December having lost three of its last four games after a difficult Thanksgiving tournament and a defeat to Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. However, the Scarlet Knights had more practice time this month and are 2-0 in December as finals week and the holiday break approaches.
On December 8th, Rutgers played its fifth consecutive game away from the RAC win, facing Harvard (4-6) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Scarlet Knights played great defense, swiping 11 steals and holding the Crimson to 32.1% shooting overall and just 8 of 29 for 27.6% from three-point range. Offensively, Rutgers shot 41.3% from the field and made 19 of 25 free throw attempts for 76%. They jumped out to an 26-15 lead at the half, but Harvard got as close as 46-43 with 3:31 to play in the game. However, Rutgers made 10 of 11 free throws down the stretch and closed the game on a 14-6 run to win 60-49.
Arella Guirantes scored 19 points on 6 of 10 shooting and a perfect 6 of 6 from the charity stripe. She added 3 assists and had just 1 turnover. Stasha Carey paced the frontcourt with 19 points as well, while adding 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Caitlin Jenkins put forth a balanced effort, scoring 7 points, grabbing 10 boards and swiping 2 steals.
This past Saturday, Rutgers returned home to the RAC to face LSU in a battle of high major programs and rematch of the 2007 national semifinal. After falling behind as much as 8 points early and ended the first quarter trailing 13-6, Rutgers answered with a monster 21-6 second quarter to lead by 9 points at the half. Arella Guirantes scored 8 of her team high 16 points in the quarter. LSU got as close as 30-28 midway through the third quarter, but Rutgers went on a 9-2 run to take control of the game. LSU never got closer than seven points the rest of the way and the Scarlet Knights won going away, 57-43. Rutgers moved to 7-3 on the season, while LSU dropped to 5-3.
In addition to 16 points, Guirantes finished with 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists and just 1 turnover in 37 minutes of action. Ciani Cryor was the only other player to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals. Caitlin Jenkins had a team high 9 rebounds. LSU committed 25 turnovers in the game and shot just 30.9% from the floor. Rutgers shot 40.4% from the floor and continued to do well at the free throw line, making 15 of 21 for 71.4%.
Arella Guirantes gives her thoughts on Saturday's victory over LSU pic.twitter.com/cXPaHwyoKv— Rutgers W.Basketball (@RutgersWBB) December 16, 2018
The Scarlet Knights have been dominant on the defensive end to start the season. In terms of national ranks, Rutgers is fifth in field goal percentage defense at .318, sixth in scoring defense allowing just 51.1 points per game, and 14th in blocked shots per game at 5.5. In regard to Big Ten teams, Rutgers is ranked in the top three in all three of those categories, as well as rebounding, steals and three-point defense. The Scarlet Knights currently have an RPI ranking of 64th, which is 8th best in the Big Ten.
Rutgers now has an almost two week break before it’s next game against Northwestern at home on December 28th to open conference play. They’ll head to play undefeated and top ten ranked Maryland on New Year’s Eve, before finishing non-conference play against Brown at the RAC on Friday, January 4th.