The no. 24 Rutgers women’s basketball team closed out the regular season on a nine game winning streak after a impressive 71-63 victory over no. 22/20 Ohio State on Friday night. The Scarlet Knights took control with a 13-2 run to end the first quarter and never let the Buckeyes get within striking distance the rest of the night.
Rutgers played with a lot of urgency from the opening tip on and defensively they were stifling. They held Ohio State, who entered the game scoring 81.1 points per game, 18 points below its scoring average. The Buckeyes are the 16th opponent in 17 games that C Vivian Stringer’s club has held them below its own scoring average. The Scarlet Knights also tied a program best with 12 blocks in a Big Ten game and also swiped 8 steals. RU also held a 42-32 advantage with points in the paint, as well as a 25-13 margin in fast break points. Rutgers leads the Big Ten with opponents only scoring 56.2 points per game, as well as an impressive 20.2 average scoring margin.
On senior night, Arella Guirantes posted a double-double in her last game at the RAC, finishing with 20 points on 7 of 19 shooting along with 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Fellow classmate Tekia Mack had 11 points on 4 of 10 shooting, along with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots. Mael Gilles finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in her home finale.
Redshirt sophomore Tyia Singleton stole the show with a dominant effort in the paint. She produced her first double-double ever and set career highs with 18 points on 8 of 9 shooting, as well as 13 rebounds, and 6 blocks.
Junior Zippy Broughton returned from injury to play her first game of 2021 on Friday. She finished with 2 points in just over six minutes of action.
Freshman Liz Martino provided a lift off the bench once again in scoring 6 points after connecting on both of her shots from three-point range.
With the victory, Rutgers improved to 14-3 on the season and 10-3 in Big Ten play, which has earned them the 3 seed in the conference tournament next week. Their opponent is yet to be determined but the Scarlet Knights are slotted to play the winner of the no. 6/no. 11 game on Thursday, March 11 at 9:00 p.m.
Third place ties the program’s best finish since joining the Big Ten, as they also finished third during the 2018-2019 season. RU has now won nine straight conference games since the 2005-2006 when they played in the Big East.
With a veteran team that plays extremely hard and shares the basketball, Rutgers has clicked since a five week pause due to COVID-19. This team plays stifling defense the entire game and has as balanced a starting lineup as Stringer has had in years. Establishing multiple scoring threats with Tyia Singleton inside and Diamond Johnson from behind the arc to pair with star Arella Guirantes has been key. Tekia Mack continues to be a fantastic defensive player who gives Rutgers an emotional boost on the court and does all the little things. Classmate Mael Gilles is a reliable veteran who is an unselfish team player.
During the telecast aired live on ESPN, it was mentioned that Bracketologist Charlie Creme has Rutgers projected as a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That was before the win over Ohio State and if the Scarlet Knights can make a run at the Big Ten Tournament, then its seeding should only improve.