EL PASO, Texas (April 4, 2014) – American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Tyler Scaife (Little Rock, Ark.) went coast-to-coast for the game-winning lay-up with two seconds remaining to lift the Rutgers women’s basketball to a 56-54 victory and the 2014 WNIT Championship on Saturday at a sold out Don Haskins Center.
Scaife, who finished with 18 points, was named to the all-tournament team and sophomore forward Kahleah Copper (Philadelphia, Pa.) was named the WNIT MVP after she collected her third double-double of the year with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The host Miners overcame an 18-point second half deficit to take a 49-48 lead with 5:05 remaining, setting up another dramatic finish for the Scarlet Knights in the post-season.
Rutgers led 34-16 with 18:41 in the second half when UTEP outscored the Scarlet Knights, 23-5, to pull within three with 11:39 to go. The Miners’ Kristine Vitola, who finished with a team-high 16 points including 10 in the second half, cut RU’s lead down to 39-36.
Scaife, with back-to-back buckets, gave RU a six-point edge, 48-42, with 7:13 remaining, but UTEP proceeded to take an 8-0 run to take the lead for the first time since the 17-minute mark of the first half. Chrishauna Parker sunk a pair of free throws with five minutes left to give UTEP a 50-48 edge.
On the following Rutgers possession Scaife missed a jumper but was fouled, where she went to the line to hit one of two. UTEP missed a pair of chances at the other end and before they could get off a third try, turned the ball over into the hands of the Scarlet Knights. Scaife nailed a 15-foot jumper with 2:29 left, returning the Rutgers lead for good. The freshman’s bucket as the shot clock expired put RU ahead, 51-50.
While the Miners had chances to tie the game, UTEP was held to just a pair of free throws the rest of the way. RU’s single-season blocks leader, Rachel Hollivay (Columbus, Miss.) swatted away a Kayla Thorton look at the basket and after a Miner turnover, she hit the paint for a four-point, 54-50, Scarlet Knight cushion.
Hollivay collected the defensive rebound off a Vitola miss to follow and was fouled. Going to the line, Hollivay missed the front-end of a one-and-one where Vitola was fouled as she collected the rebound..
Vitola sunk both attempts from the charity stripe as the Scarlet Knights clung to a 54-52 edge with one minute left in the game.
The Scarlet Knights got off three chances at the basket their next trip down the court, but could not convert. After Hollivay missed on the third attempt, UTEP’s Kelli Willingham managed to grab the ball and was fouled. Willingham went to the line with a chance to tie the game with 23 seconds remaining, but missed both her free throws.
After her second miss, the ball was tied up and a jump ball was called with the possession arrow favoring the Scarlet Knights. The Miners immediately fouled sending Scaife back to the line for a one-and-one.
Scaife missed the free throw with 22 seconds left and Parker grabbed the ball for the Miners.
Jenzel Nash went to the basket with five seconds on the clock, but was denied by Hollivay with her fourth block of the game. Parker once again came up with the rebound and had the put back and the game endured its fourth tie as the two squads were knotted up at 54-54 with only seconds remaining.
On the RU inbounds, Scaife went coast-to-coast for the game-winning score with only 2.1 seconds left.
Rutgers earned its second national title, having won the AIAW national title in 1982, and closes out the 2013-14 season at 28-9 overall.
- The Scarlet Knights played in their 37th game of the season. It is the most games played by the RU women’s basketball in its history. The 2007 NCAA runner-up squad ended the season having played in 36 games.
- RU finished the season at 28-9, the most wins since the 2004-05 season when the Scarlet Knights ended at 28-7.
- Miners were held to 16 first half points It was the fifth time the Scarlet Knights held the opposition to fewer than 20 points at the intermission. Lowest points scored at the half by an opponent was 14 by Houston (Feb. 11)
- Rutgers garnered 22 points off of 19 UTEP turnovers. It was the 15th with 20 or more points off of opponent miscues.
- WNIT MVP Kahleah Copper averaged 17.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in the six games played.
- Fellow All-Tournament Team member Tyler Scaife averaged 18 points.
- Rachel Hollivay collected four blocks in the championship game and averaged 4.7 rejections per game in the tournament. She ends the season with 127 blocks in the 2013-14 campaign.
- Betnijah Laney will enter next season needing only 104 points to reach the 1,000 point milestone. Copper meanwhile will 267 more points after scoring 562 this season.
- Syessence Davis finished the game with five steals. She registered three or more steals in 24 games this season and five or more for the fifth time. Her five thefts pushed her into second on the single season leaders list with 107 on the season surpassing Denise Kenney (77-78) for the spot.
- Scaife’s 536 points in her rookie campaign are the most by any Scarlet Knight freshman, surpassing Cappie Pondexter’s mark of 532 from 2002-03. She ends her freshman season having averaged 14.5 points per game ranking her sixth in freshman scoring averaging at RU.
- Scaife’s 491 field goal attempts places her eighth on the single season list in the category.
- Copper ended the 2013-14 campaign averaging 16.1 points putting her fourth on the sophomore scoring average chart. She logged 580 points in her second season as a Scarlet Knight, the third most points in the sophomore standings behind Sue Wicks (719) and Cappie Pondexter (592).
- Betnijah Laney closes out the season with 413 points on the year, averaging 11.8 points per game. Her 296 rebounds on the season puts her name second among juniors on the glass. Her 8.5 rebounds per game puts her fourth among junior rebounding average.
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