UNCASVILLE, Conn. (March 8, 2014) – The fourth-seeded Rutgers women’s basketball pulled away in the second half for a 68-49 win over fifth-seeded SMU to advance to Sunday’s semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Championships at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Rutgers overcame a six-point halftime deficit to outscore the Mustangs, 44-19, in the second half to pick up its 22nd win of the season.
The Mustangs held a 30-24 advantage at the intermission as conference leading scorer Keena Mays exploded for 15 first half points behind 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. SMU went 6-of-15 from downtown in the opening stanza, but the second half was a much different story.
With the score tied at 37-37 with 13:01 left to play, Rutgers took a 12-2 run over the next five minutes to take over the lead for good. American Freshman of the Year Tyler Scaife (Little Rock, Ark.) accounted for six of the Scarlet Knights’ points during the run, capping the stretch by knocking down two free throws to give her squad a 49-39 cushion with 8:20 remaining.
SMU would draw no closer than seven, 50-43, off a Mays jumper with just over six minutes left. Following Mays’ jumper, RU closed out the game outscoring the Mustangs, 18-6. RU regained its double digit lead going on an 8-1 run immediately following the Mays’ bucket with Kahleah Copper (Philadelphia, Pa.) connecting on two attempts from the charity stripe to give the Scarlet Knights’ its largest edge of the game, 62-44, with 2:30 to go.
The Mustangs shot just 1-of-9 from three-point range in the second half.
Copper, a First Team All-American Athletic Conference member, had just four points at the intermission, but ended the afternoon leading her squad with 22 points. Three additional Scarlet Knights joined Copper with double digits. Scaife finished with 18 points, while Betnijah Laney (Clayton, Del.) and Rachel Hollivay (Columbus, Miss.) each netted 10 in the victory.
Laney captured her 13th double-double of the year as she also hauled in 10 boards.
SMU was led by Mays with 23. Akil Simpson had seven points and 11 rebounds as the Mustangs dropped to 17-13 overall.
The Scarlet Knights will meet top-seeded Connecticut on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will tipoff at 1 p.m. on ESPNU.
- The victory gave Rutgers 22 wins on the season, tying the highest win total for the program in the last six seasons. RU last reach the 22-game win mark in 2010-11.
- Rutgers improved to 4-6 when trailing at the half.
- The Scarlet Knights reached the 60-point mark for the 25th time in 30 games.
- It was the seventh game this season RU has held a team under 20 points in a half. SMU had just 19 second half points.
- Kahleah Copper had her 10th 20+ point effort of the season and led the team in scoring for the 14th time the season.
- Tyler Scaife reached double digits for the 22nd time in 30 games.
- Betnijah Laney collected her 13th double-double of the season. She has reached double figure scoring in 20 of RU’s 30 games this season and in six of the last seven contests.
- Rachel Hollivay had two blocks to bring her season total to 96. She is one rejection shy of tying Sue Wicks, RU’s all-time single season leader in rejection. Wicks (1986-87) holds the record with 97.
- Syessence Davis had four assists to her zero turnovers. The junior point guard has committed no turnovers in four other contests.
- RU shot over 80 percent from the free throw line for just the third time. Rutgers finished the game shooting 85.7 percent from the charity stripe. The Scarlet Knights knocked down two free throws in the first half and went16-of-19 in the second half.
- Both Laney and Scaife finished the game 4-of-4 from the line, while Copper went 8-of-9 from the stripe.
- Rutgers won the battle of the boards, 43-35, and improved to 17-2 when outrebounding the opposition.
- Scaife led the Scarlet Knights on the board with six rebounds. The rookie Scarlet Knights has hauled in five or more rebounds in a game eight times.
- RU had 30 points in the paint against SMU. RU has scored 30 or more points in the paint in 20 of its last 26 games and 22 times this season.
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