The Rutgers women’s basketball team won both conference road games they played last week and sit alone in first place of the Big Ten standings. The Scarlet Knights have won eight straight games to bring their record to 13-3 overall and 5-0 in conference play. It’s the best start for Rutgers since joining the Big Ten five years ago. They were recognized on Monday afternoon by breaking into the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time this season, coming in at #20. The Big Ten has five other teams ranked in the latest poll and Rutgers will play them all in the next four weeks. Let’s recap the two victories from last week and look at what’s ahead for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers 71 Illinois 60
Last Tuesday, Rutgers jumped out to a commanding 28-11 lead after a dominant first quarter in Champaign. After giving up the first two baskets of the game, they proceeded to go on a 23-0 run led by Arella Guirantes, who scored 12 points in the opening frame. Rutgers maintained control for most of the game and entered the fourth quarter leading 58-41. The Illini did cut the lead to single digits at 66-57 with less than two minutes to play, but it never got closer than that.
Rutgers shot 50% from the field while holding Illinois to jut 37%. The Scarlet Knights dominated the glass as well, outrebounding the Illini 42-21, while led to a 16-4 advantage on second chance points.
Ciani Cryor dished out a game high 13 assists in the win, the most by a Rutgers player in 13 years. Guirantes led the way with 15 points in a game that RU had four players score in double digits. Stasha Carey had 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks, while Charise Wilson and Caitlin Jenkins both added 10 points each.
Here’s some highlights from last night’s 71-60 victory over Illinois.— Rutgers W.Basketball (@RutgersWBB) January 10, 2019
those assists! pic.twitter.com/VmLKNkzX4e
Rutgers 62 Nebraska 56
C. Vivian Stringer’s Team was in control from the opening tip through most of the game, holding and 8 or 9 point lead at the end of each of the first three quarters. However, the Cornhuskers fought back to tie the game at 52 with 6:38 to play. As it’s been all season, the Rutgers defense dominated the rest of the way, holding Nebraska without a field goal for over five minutes and just four points total. The Scarlet Knights ended the game on a 10-4 run behind Stasha Carey going 4 for 4 from the free throw line.
As a team, Rutgers shot 40.7% from the floor overall and made 9 of 16 shots from three-point range (56%). They were also 9 of 12 from the free throw line (75%). Despite getting beaten on the boards with a -10 rebounding margin, Rutgers held a 24-14 advantage with points in the paint and a 12-9 edge with second chance points. Nebraska shot just 35.6% from the field and only 60.7% from the free throw line on 28 attempts.
Ciani Cryor continued her strong play by leading Rutgers with 13 points and shooting 3 of 5 from three-point range, along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds. Charise Wilson was the only other Rutgers player to score in double figures, posting 12 points behind 3 of 4 shooting from behind the arc. Stasha Carey, Arella Guirantes, and Caitlin Jenkins all scored 8 points, while Jenkins led the way on the boards with a game high 12 rebounds.
Five of the next seven contests are against ranked teams, including #17 Michigan State at home on Sunday, January 21st, followed by a road trip to #22nd Iowa on Wednesday, January 23rd. First up though is an important home game against Purdue this Wednesday, a team that playing well and receiving votes in the latest AP Poll. The Boilermakers are 13-5 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play, just one game behind Rutgers. The meat of the Scarlet Knights conference schedule begins in earnest this week. So far this season, Rutgers has held all sixteen opponents below its scoring average and lead the Big Ten in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. They’ll need to continue to have balance on offense, rebound at a high rate and play stout defense to make a serious push for the Big Ten title and or NCAA Tournament berth.