March already providing madness
The NCAA Big Ten conference season has been crazy, to say the least. Every week provided excitement with upsets, big performances, and close games throughout conference play. Heading into the last week of the regular season, Rutgers still didn’t know if they were going to be a top-4 seed and earn a double-bye in the Big Ten Conference tournament.
Thanks to Arella Guirantes, the No. 3 seed belongs to the Scarlet Knights.
Coming off a Feb. 21 loss to Michigan, the Scarlet Knights knew the team was going to need a strong finish in order to avoid playing in the first two days of this week’s conference tournament. With Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer stepping away due to exhaustion, it was going to be up to interim coach Tim Eatman to help coach the women to victory. The team’s first game without Stringer came on Feb. 25, a game that Rutgers won by 20. Guirantes scored 13 points in the win, the second most after teammate Tekia Mack had her best game of the season off the bench, scoring 17 points.
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“As you can imagine this was not an easy decision,” Stringer said in a press release from Rutgers. “However, in consultation with my doctors, it is in my best interest to spend time to get healthy before returning to the day-to-day grind of coaching.”
Three days later the Scarlet Knights were back at home again, this time vs. Minnesota, a team who is pushing hard down the stretch to make sure that they make the Big Dance. The Golden Gophers stuck around for much of the game before Rutgers was finally able to pull away late en route to a 60-54 win. Guirantes had 25 points-a season high–in the win along with five rebounds, three steals, and one block. The team as a whole only shot 40-percent in the game but it was enough to hold off Minnesota and all but secure a top-4 seed in the Big Ten Conference tournament.
Guirantes and Co. played the last game of the regular season on March 3 vs. Ohio State. The Buckeyes got out to a 22-9 first-quarter lead and carried that 13 point lead into halftime. In the second half, Rutgers defense played the best half of the season, holding the Buckeyes to just 18 points–12 in the third quarter and six in the fourth–while scoring 41 points of their own. Guirantes and Zipporah Broughton each scored 19 for Rutgers while Guirantes added seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals. The win secured the No. 3 seed for the Scarlet Knights ahead of Michigan and Ohio State. Maryland earned the No. 1 seed while Iowa earned the second seed in the tournament which is slated to begin on March 6 in Indianapolis.
Guirantes finished the regular season averaging 27.8 minutes per game and 11.8 points per game. She made 39.3 percent of her shots throughout the season. Guirantes shot 84.3 percent from the free throw line including making nine of her ten shots from the charity stripe in Sunday’s win.
The Scarlet Knights (21-8) won’t play until March 8 and will not know their opponent until late evening on March 7. The Scarlet Knights will either play Illinois, Purdue, or Nebraska in the March 8 quarterfinal matchup.
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