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RU WBB: Buzzer Beating Layup Advances Rutgers To Second Round Of WNIT

Rutgers' Kahleah Copper scores the game-winning layup with less than a second remaining to beat Georgetown in the 1st round of the 2016 postseason WNIT. (Photo - Edwin Gano, The Daily Targum)

Rutgers’ Kahleah Copper scores the game-winning layup with less than a second remaining to beat Georgetown in the 1st round of the 2016 postseason WNIT. (Photo – Edwin Gano, The Daily Targum)

The Rutgers women’s basketball team had a little luck of the Irish on their side on St. Patrick’s Day at the Rutgers Athletic Center Thursday night.

Kahleah Copper saw the ball bounce right into her hands after a last second shot by teammate Tyler Scaife was off the mark, and the senior guard/forward laid it in off the right side of the glass with 0.2 seconds remaining to lift the Scarlet Knights over the Georgetown Hoyas in the first round of the 2016 Postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

“It just happened to fall right into my hands, and I happened to just put it in the basket,” Copper said postgame. “It feels good (getting the game-winner). It was ugly, but we got win, so I’m excited.”

While Copper filled up the stat sheet with 21 points, nine rebounds, and five assists (no turnovers), center Rachel Hollivay had her self an efficient game.

The senior finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting, consistently getting opened in the paint on various plays and her teammates found her. Rutgers finished with 12 assists on the night compared to only five for the Hoyas, and a good chunk were to Hollivay.

“We had a horrible shooting night, per say, and Rachel saved the day because we were able to go inside to her and they couldn’t handle that,” head coach C. Vivian Stringer said.

Hollivay added on her performance: “In practice, I was just really focusing on finishing,” she said. “So I just tried to focus on taking it to the game and it worked out really well.”

One notable question about Hollivay is why she doesn’t deliver these dominating performances more often. When Hollivay is on, Rutgers wins more often than not. With Copper, Scaife, Briyona Canty, and Shrita Parker hitting shots from the outside, the opportunity is there for the Mississippi native to thrive.

“Rachel did a really good job. I think that she can do this night-in-and-night-out,” Copper said of the Scarlet Knight’s all-time blocked shots leader. “She can have a double-double every night. I just think if she focuses on the things she’s been focusing on, she can be the consistent presence inside.”

Even though both teams didn’t make it to the preferred NCAA Division-I Basketball Championship Tournament, both teams didn’t want to lose and have their season end.

The contest was tight throughout, featuring seven lead changes, and the game was all tied up 12 times.

Midway through the third quarter, with Rutgers down by two (32-30), Stringer called on the dogs looking for a spark.

Her vaunted “55-full-court-press” defense disrupted Georgetown, as they committed two of their 23 turnovers on the night right off the bat because of the pressure. Rutgers would go on a 9-2 run to put them up eight, and led heading into the fourth 45-40.

“The 55 was major,” Stringer said. “We were working with a seven-man rotation so it was kind of hard, but if we’re gonna do it, we have to get something out it.”

The teams would battle nip-and-tuck just like they have all game, but final shot went Rutgers way.

Now Rutgers gets to host another home game on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. against the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavaliers edged out VCU in their opening game 52-50, coming back from a late third quarter 11-point deficit. The Scarlet Knights beat Virginia 60-48 way back on Nov. 27 during the 2015 Paradise Jam.

The Scarlet Knights improved to 7-0 all-time in the WNIT, with six of those wins coming two years ago when Rutgers ran the table and won the 2014 Postseason WNIT in their only other appearance. In the championship match that year, Scaife went coast-to-coast for and bucketed a layup with two seconds remaining, just like she did earlier this season against Northwestern.

She tried to re-create the magic for Rutgers again, but I bet she was happy that Copper got the glory this time.

Stringer’s squad has a chance to become the only team to win the tournament twice if they do so.

 

Follow Chris on Twitter for updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball and football teams @ChrisWasky

 

 

 

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