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Women’s Basketball: Rutgers downs Northwestern to advance in Big Ten Tournament

The Scarlet Knights will move on to the second round on Thursday.

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kaylene Smikle scored 26 points in the opener of the Big Ten Tournament as 11th-seeded Rutgers survived against 14th-seeded Northwestern in Minneapolis.

The Scarlet Knights have now won a game in the Big Ten Tournament in back-to-back years. They will be the last game of the night on Thursday, taking on sixth-seeded Illinois.

Smikle became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 551 points following her performance. She is now the third freshman in program history to hit 500 points.

Both sides went back-and-forth following a slow start. Rutgers (12-19, 5-13) took its first lead of the night with 1:15 left in the first quarter on a Smikle three-point play. The freshman scored 21 of her 26 points in the first half.

Rutgers used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to build a 12-point lead but Northwestern (9-21, 2-16) ended the half with five in a row.

The Scarlet Knights could not hold off Northwestern over the course of the second half. The Wildcats began the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to even the game at 51. With two minutes left in the contest, a Chyna Cornwell layup gave Rutgers a six-point lead and it was able to survive and advance.

Cornwell domiated down low, logging 15 points and 16 rebounds. Awa Sidibe and Kai Carter added 11 points each.