Piscataway, N.J. – Guard Arella Guirantes scored a career-high 25 points, 19 in the second half, as Rutgers rallied to beat the Gophers 60-54 on Thursday night for a split in their season series.
The Gophers (19-9, 8-9 Big Ten) lost their second game in a row, both on the road, after a six-game winning streak. They fell to Maryland by two points last Sunday.
“They forced us into 20 turnovers,” Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen said in a postgame radio interview. “It just wasn’t our night.”
The first-year head coach said her players tried to prepare for Rutgers’ quickness and full-court pressure, but that’s difficult, “when you actually see it, when you see all their athletes and all they can do.”
Destiny Pitts continued her recent offensive surge for Minnesota, scoring 24 points with six three-pointers. It was her fifth consecutive game with 21 points or more. “[Pitts] gave everything she had,” Whalen said.
But Kenisha Bell, with 14 points, was the only other Gophers player with more than eight points.
The Gophers used a 10-0 run in the opening quarter to take a 15-8 lead, led 30-25 at halftime and 42-38 after three quarters.
But Guirantes made two layups at the start of the fourth quarter to tie the score and the Scarlet Knights held the Gophers to 12 points — or two fewer than Guirantes had — over the final 10 minutes.
“We just kept our composure,” Guirantes said, “and ours shots started falling.”
“It’s just unfortunate,” Whalen said. “I had three kids play 40 minutes — what can you say.”
Rutgers (20-8, 12-5) clinched the third seed in the Big Ten tournament. The loss probably means the Gophers will have to win the tournament to get into the NCAA field with the automatic bid that goes to the winner.
The Gophers beat then-No. 17 Rutgers 60-46 on Feb. 3 at Williams Arena. The Scarlet Knights lead the all-time series 5-3, with the home team winning every game.
Rutgers, which was outrebounded 44-31 in the first matchup with Minnesota, had a 36-28 advantage this time. In points in the paint, the Scarlet Knights dominated even more, 38-14.