After trailing 35-28 on the road Wednesday at Michigan State (127; 7-7), the Rutgers women’s basketball team delivered a dominant fourth quarter performance to clinch a sixth straight Big Ten victory, all by double-digits. Behind a 24-7 final period, the Scarlet Knights defeated the Spartans 63-53, holding MSU to just 18 second half points.
Rutgers was 7 of 10 from the floor, 2 of 4 from three-point range and 8 of 10 from the free throw line in the decisive fourth quarter. The defense held Michigan State to 2 of 11 shooting and forced 8 turnovers in the final period.
Overall, Rutgers scored 24 points off of 17 MSU turnovers and held a 17-10 edge in fast break points.
Arella Guirantes was held to just 2 points on 1 of 11 shooting entering the fourth quarter but scored 9 points when it mattered most. She continues to be a complete player even when she struggles offensively and finished with 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals in the game.
Diamond Johnson led Rutgers with 22 points on 8 of 16 shooting. While she struggled from three-point range for the first time all season, making just 1 of 7 shots, she finished with 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. She also made all four free throw attempts in the last minute of the game and has now made 24 straight from the charity stripe.
Guirantes and Johnson, along with Tekia Mack, who finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals, all played the entire 40 minutes of the game.
Freshman Liz Martino stepped up in the second quarter, making all three of her shots from behind the arc to keep Rutgers in the game, finishing with 9 points. Tyia Singleton had 8 points on 4 of 9 shooting, as well as 6 rebounds and 5 blocks. While Mael Gilles, who had 5 points on 2 of 3 shooting, delivered a tie breaking three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter that gave RU the lead for good.
“There was a resolve and a mindset that we were going to find a way to get it done,” head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “We had to play in the 55 quite a bit and it took a lot of guts. We were in great condition and it showed up. Michigan State was exhausted and we survived and stayed the course. It was gutsy play on our part and that’s what it took. This is championship-level play.”
Rutgers is on a serious roll since COVID-19 shut down the program for five weeks. After entering the AP Poll this week at no. 25, the Scarlet Knights are now 11-3 overall and 7-3 in Big Ten play. They are in sole possession of fourth place in the conference based on a .700 winning percentage.
As usual under Stringer, defense has led the way as RU has held five straight Big Ten opponents under 60 points. That’s the first time Rutgers has done that since joining the conference and first time since the 2012-2013 season when they were in the Big East. Rutgers held MSU 24 points under its 77 points per game average, which is the 13th time in 14 games that they’ve held opponents under their season scoring average.
The Scarlet Knights will play at Penn State (9-11; 6-10) this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET and it will be aired live on the Big Ten Network.