The Rutgers women’s basketball team came into the Big Ten Tournament having won nine consecutive games, having tied a program best by earning the no. 3 seed since joining the conference seven seasons ago. They took on no. 6 Iowa, who beat the Scarlet Knights 90-84 in Iowa City on December 31. However, the hope was with the way that head coach C. Vivian Stringer’s team had been playing, especially on the defensive end in holding seven of its last nine opponents to under 60 points, Thursday night would be different.
Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes established an 18-9 lead after the first quarter and assumed control at the half leading RU 39-25. It was too big of a hole for the Scarlet Knights to dig out of, never getting closer than 8 points the rest of the way. Iowa advanced to the Big Ten semifinals with a 73-62 victory.
The Hawkeyes shot 53.7% from the field including 10 of 24 from three-point range for 41.7%. Even though Rutgers forced 16 turnovers, they only held a 18-16 edge in points off of them after committing 12 turnovers on their own. While RU grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and held a 17-8 advantage in second chance points, Iowa was +4 on the boards overall. The Scarlet Knights struggled offensively all night long, shooting 38.8% from the floor and 6 of 24 for 25.0% for behind the arc. Both teams evened out from the line with Iowa making 5 of 9 attempts and RU just 4 of 10.
Iowa had three players have big offensive performances. Gabbie Marshall was lights out from three, making 7 of 11 shots, and finished with a game high 27 points along with 7 rebounds and 2 steals. Caitlin Clark had a double-double with 21 points and 10 assists, while Monika Czinano had 20 points on 10 of 15 shots and 5 rebounds. Only one other Hawkeye scored in McKenna Warnock, who had 5 points and 12 rebounds, but they had more than enough firepower to advance.
Rutgers was led by freshman Diamond Johnson, who scored 26 points on 11 of 21 shooting, including 4 of 12 from behind the arc. She added 8 rebounds and a career high 6 steals in the loss. Arella Guirantes had 20 points on 8 of 20 shooting, as well as 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. The issues is that RU couldn’t get much offense elsewhere, as Mael Gilles was the only other player with more than two made field goals. She finished with 9 points on 4 of 10 shooting and 4 rebounds. Tyia Singleton had a team high 9 rebounds, but scored just 4 points on 2 of 5 shooting. Tekia Mack had an off night shooting just 1 of 8 from the floor for 3 points, along with 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
With an overall record of 14-4 and a third place finish in Big Ten play, Rutgers is a lock for the NCAA Tournament. However, despite having a NET ranking of 11 coming into this game, after a loss tonight and not having played a full schedule, the Scarlet Knights are probably looking at a no. 6 seed at best. They were projected as a no. 5 seed before this game by College Sports Madness and ESPN.
It was a disappointing performance to begin postseason play but Rutgers will now have time to regroup and prepare to make a run in the NCAA Tournament later this month. The Selection Show will air Monday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. We will have an update on projections closer to Monday’s announcement.