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Rutgers women’s basketball remains in NCAA Tournament hunt after win over Michigan

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The Scarlet Knights are fighting for a second consecutive March Madness bid heading down the home stretch of the season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 06 Women’s Penn State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Rutgers women’s basketball team earned a crucial victory on Sunday, defeating Michigan 62-41 at the RAC. The two teams were tied in the Big Ten standings entering the contest and the Scarlet Knights had dropped the first meeting in Ann Arbor earlier this season. The victory moved RU into sixth place in the Big Ten standings in picking up its highest ranked RPI win of the season, as Michigan was no. 32 entering the contest.

The defensive effort was superb, holding the Wolverines to just 30% shooting and they went scoreless for a nine plus minute stretch in the second half. RU was +6 on the boards and held a 23-12 advantage in points off of turnovers.

Four starters scored in double digits for Rutgers, as Arella Guirantes continues her standout campaign with a game high 24 points on 7 of 15 shooting, as well as 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal. Mael Gilles had 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals. Tekia Mack had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals, while KK Sanders added 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

There’s no doubt this was a must-win game,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “It was the biggest game of the year, and we won it by playing together. Michigan is a very good basketball team and we did everything we needed to do to beat a team of that quality. Four players in double-digits, rebounding and defense. That’s what it took.”

Rutgers is 18-7 overall and 8-6 in Big Ten play with four regular season games remaining. They have an RPI ranking of no. 47 and are currently projected as a 10 seed in multiple NCAA Tournament projections, including ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s latest bracketology released on Tuesday morning.

It won’t be easy getting there as Rutgers has a difficult schedule remaining and is dealing with several injuries in the backcourt, in addition to Noga Peleg Pelc officially leaving the program last week. The Scarlet Knights visit No. 18/21 Northwestern (22-3; 12-2) this Wednesday, followed by three consecutive home games against Ohio State (16-9; 9-5), Wisconsin (11-5; 3-12) and no. 19 Iowa (21-5; 12-3) to end the regular season.

With a strong veteran core led by Guirantes, Rutgers will likely go as far as the starters can carry them. The defense continues to be the calling card for Stringer’s team, as they are eighth in the country in field goal percentage defense. A positive is they are 11-2 at the RAC this season and have the opportunity to finish out the schedule with its last three games at home. Their NCAA Tournament fate will come down to how they close out the season and perform in the Big Ten Tournament.