Senior Night. Always big, always emotional.
Do you use the emotion and adrenaline to soar or does the emotion overwhelm you? Based on play in the first quarter, it was not going to be the former.
With the exception of Victoria Harris, the starters were all seniors, a fitting way to close out their home career. But the first quarter was anything but a storybook “finish” for the seniors. Iowa came in on a five game win streak and had won six of seven and it looked like they would continue. In the opening stanza, the Hawkeyes moved the ball well, rebounded well, and built a 13-4 lead.
The Knights would fight back - in fact dominate in the second period - but ultimately Iowa three point shooting and Rutgers (19-10, 7-8 B1G) foul trouble would doom the Knights in a gut-wrenching 77-67 overtime loss to Iowa (22-6, 10-5 B1G).
The first quarter was painfully forgettable for RU, and despite opening slow and taking what seemed to be far too many forced and awkward shots, the Knights clawed back. Within the first three minutes of the second quarter, RU had cut the lead to three points. The second quarter was a completely different game as Rutgers outscored the Hawkeyes 21-6 in the period to take a 25-19 lead at intermission.
Rutgers led by as many as 13 points in the second half. They played tougher defense, turned the tables on rebounding, and had better passing and shots, including put backs. But the Hawkeyes’ threes and foul shots kept them close. Iowa went to the bonus with just over a minute to play in the third , and it made a difference. Iowa was 21 of 28 from the charity stripe; the Knights just five of ten. Jenkins, Harris and Cryor were playing with four fouls for the last three minutes of regulation; Jenkins and Harris both fouled out.
As the game wound down, it became more frenetic. Iowa, with fouls to give, did so on each inbound play. A Makenzie Meyer layup cut Rutgers’ lead to two points. Scaife from the top of the key hit at 33.6 for a 58-54 lead. But Chase Coley’s jumper cut the lead back to two, 58-56 With 24 seconds left, Iowa fouled Scaife who missed the first of two. And that led to the dramatic close as Kathleen Doyle hit a three with :09 to send the game into OT.
The biggest difference, according to Stringer, was Iowa’s ability to score in the post. Junior Megan Gustafson had only 14 points after threend her, and the Hawkeyes began to go inside and Rutgers couldn’t - or didn’t - stop it.
After scoring the first basket in the extra period, Rutgers went cold. Nothing dropped, balls went in and out, and Iowa rebounded.
Rutgers was led by Tyler Scaife with 30 points; the next highest scorers for RU were Gia Greene and Vickie Harris, each with seven. Iowa was led by Gustafson (27 points, 14 reb); Gustafson is the only player in the country averaging 24+ points per game and 12+ rebounds per game. Chase Coley had 20
Always an emotional time, the Knights bid farewell to their two student managers and four players who would be on the court at home for the last time.
Managers: Amanda Jones, Jasmine Dennis
Players: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Nigia Greene, Jazlynd Rollins, and Tyler Scaife
With her next win - and wouldn’t it have been nice against Iowa, C. Vivian Stringer will become the first woman to coach 200 wins in the Big Ten regular season. She now sits at 199-81 at Iowa and Rutgers. There are only six men’s coaches who have reached that milestone, including Bobby Knight (353 wins), Tom Izzo (271), Gene Keady (265), and Lou Henson (214).
Big Ten Women’s Tournament
Starting a week from tonight, the Big Ten’s Women’s Basketball Tournament opens at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. If the tournament began today, with RU in the ninth spot in the standings, they would likely open with a first day bye and then play Purdue in the 8/9 game at noon on March 1.
The Knights close out the season on the road this Sunday at Northwestern (10-18, 3-11 B1G). The game will be on BTN Plus with a 3:00 pm tip. A win would give Rutgers 20 on the season and give the Big Ten six (seven if Nebraska wins) teams with at least 20 wins.