By Jerome Bingham
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – She had already advanced one more step among the greatest players in Rutgers basketball history. Earlier in the second round of the Big Ten tournament against Purdue, senior guard Tyler Scaife had passed Cappie Pondexter to become the greatest scorer in Rutgers history not named Sue Wicks.
But that is not what this second round game was about, not in the final seconds, with the score tied at 60-60.
“I wanted the ball in my hands,” Scaife said, “so I went and got it.”
Scaife’s basket with 4.3 seconds to play gave the Scarlet Knights a 62-60 victory. Rutgers (20-11) advanced to the quarterfinal round for the third time in four seasons. The Scarlet Knights will meet top-seeded Ohio State on Friday afternoon.
Purdue (18-13), a nine-time Big Ten Tournament champion and a finalist last year, failed to reach a quarterfinal for the second time in the last four tournaments.
Scaife scored 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting for a career total of 2,220, nine points more than Pondexter. Wicks scored 2,655 points to set the Rutgers record.
“I knew she was going to take the shot because she’s their go-to player,” Purdue sophomore guard Dominique Oden said of Scaife. “Our game plan was to trap her off the screen and we were going to trap her, but she refused and we still had two people on her. She just made a tough shot.”
Scaife’s resolve had already become an essential part of her team’s success. She was asked what the game-winning basket says about her leadership skills and willingness to take the last shot. “That I’m not afraid of the moment,” Scaife said.
Oden led all scorers with 25 points. Freshman Karissa McLaughlin scored 13, with five assists and two steals.
Rutgers junior center Victoria Harris scored 11 points with six rebounds and two blocks.
Purdue will now have to wait 11 days for Selection Monday. “Our resume is better than it was last year,” said Purdue coach Sharon Versyp. “But last year was last year.”
Rutgers has made 24 NCAA appearances, including 10 consecutive seasons from 2003 through 2012. But the Knights have missed the tournament in the past two seasons. They earned the chance to take the decision out of the hands of the selection committee.
“I thought that on every possession we were very conscious of what we needed to do,” said Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, “whether that was switching on screens or confronting the post. We didn’t let one possession go without us working really hard to do what we needed to do.”
The Knights blocked 10 shots, five by reserve junior forward Caitlin Jenkins.
At first, when Scaife’s place in Rutgers basketball history was part of a question, she rejected the premise.
“No, I don’t want to talk about that,” she said.
But when asked about moving past Pondexter, Scaife said, “It’s cool.”
“Do you have loftier goals than that?” she was asked.
“Yeah,” Scaife said. “Big Ten championship.”