Sports Journalism Blog

By Justin Powell | @Justin_Powell24

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS – Fifth-seeded Rutgers used a strong second half behind first team All-Big Ten guard Arella Guirantes to defeat the 12th-seeded Wisconsin Badgers, 63-55, in the second round of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Guirantes, who ranks 14th in the nation in scoring at 20.9 points per game, scored 18 of her game-high 27 points in the second half and had four steals.

Rutgers got off to a slow start defensively in the first quarter, allowing Wisconsin (12-19) to shoot 50% from the field, compared to 38% for the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers (22-8), which will meet No. 4 Indiana on Friday afternoon, advanced to the quarterfinal round for the fifth time in the last six years. Last year the Scarlet Knights lost to top-seeded Iowa, the eventual champion, 72-67.

After ending the first quarter in a 13-13 tie, Rutgers’ senior guard Danielle Migliore hit back-to-back 3-point baskets to put the Scarlet Knights ahead, 19-13, with 8:09 left in the second quarter.

Wisconsin sophomore forward Imani Lewis tied the game at the halftime buzzer to keep the score locked at 28. Lewis would finish the game with a double-double totaling 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Badgers shot 54.5% from the field in half, while the Scarlet Knights 42.3%.

Wisconsin went on a 7-2 run to open the second half and would lead 35-30 with 8:15 left in the third quarter.

Guirantes hit a fading jump shot from the left baseline just before the third-quarter buzzer to bring the Scarlet Knights within 45-42 heading into the fourth quarter.

Turnovers doomed the Badgers in the second half, as they would commit 11 second-half turnovers while forcing just one Rutgers turnover.

Rutgers took advantage of those turnovers in the fourth quarter during a 14-0 run that spanned 4:25 and gave the Scarlet Knights a 54-45 with 6:06 left in the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin head coach Jonathan Tsipis was pleased with his team’s effort. He said that the Rutgers pressure got to the Badgers in the fourth quarter. 

“Obviously, we got the five-point lead, and were trying to rest some people,” Tsipis said. “They turned the pressure up to start the fourth quarter. And we didn’t handle it the way I think we’re capable of. How we handled it even at their place when we lost last week, we did a good job handling the pressure.”

The Badgers came within five points, 55-50, behind a 3-point shot by freshman guard Julie Pospisilova with 1:05 left in the game.

Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer credits Wisconsin for playing her team tough. She says her team stepped up in the second half.

“What happened at the beginning is that we weren’t nearly as impressive as we needed to be,” Stringer said. “We did know that we had to step it up, which is extremely taxing, but the team willed themselves to win, and it worked out for us.”