Sports Journalism Blog

By Emily Kennedy | @Emily_AKennedy

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS – The game was slipping away. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights knew this feeling too well in an often-frustrating season. Nebraska was in position to take control of the second-round game in the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament. But Rutgers had time to prevent that from happening.

“I wanted to make sure I did what I could to shake them out of that nightmare,” said Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. “Just remind them that we have been here before….

“We have been hurt too many times,” Stringer said. “We have got about four or five games that, really, it could have gone one way or the other, and we were on the wrong end of that.”

The Scarlet Knights (18-13) took control of the game in the final minutes of a 66-63 victory. A 16-5 surge over the final 6 minutes, 31 seconds helped the Scarlet Knights advance to the quarterfinals for a second consecutive year. Rutgers will meet No. 2 Ohio State on Friday at 6:30 p.m..

Nebraska sophomore Natalie Romeo scored a game-high 23 points, including 7 of 10 on 3-pointers, but that was not enough for the seventh-seeded Huskers.

Rutgers sophomore Shrita Parker scored 18 points, and senior Kahleah Cooper scored 17, with nine rebounds and five assists. The Scarlet Knights outscored Nebraska in bench points (25-7) and points in the paint (34-10).

Nebraska (18-12) struggled in the final minutes without injured senior point guard Rachel Theriot and senior Kyndal Clark, her backup. “So we are going to some options there that haven’t really been on the floor for us at that spot,” said Nebraska coach Connie Yori. Freshman forward Jessica Shepard, who had not practiced because of a stress fracture, was limited to 1-of-9 shooting and 4 points in 26 minutes.

At the end, the injuries created too many limitations. A jumper by Rutgers junior guard Tyler Scaife gave the Knights a 64-63 lead with 1:12 to play. Parker made two free throws with three seconds left after a turnover by Nebraska freshman guard Jasmine Cincore.

Nebraska’s last chance, a three-point shot by Romeo, missed from the right baseline and the Scarlet Knights had survived. In the history of the Big Ten Women’s Tournament, Rutgers became just the third No. 10 seed to defeat a No. 7 seed in 22 games.

“Well, if we lose, we go home,” Scaife said. “So I don’t think anybody was ready to go. So we just fought to the end.”

On Friday, the Knights will face the challenge of the No. 2 Buckeyes. “This makes your back straight and it makes you anxious, like you can’t even sit in your seat, anxious to play a team of that caliber,” Stringer said. “They’re well coached. Just a great team and it gives us a chance to measure ourselves.”