Three takeaways from No. 11 BYU's upset of No. 6 Rutgers in women's NCAA Tournament

Chris Iseman, Asbury Park Press
·3 min read

The win was there for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights just couldn't hold on.

Sixth-seeded Rutgers lost a 12-point lead and fell to No. 11 BYU, 69-66, in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament at Strahan Arena in San Marcos, Texas, on Monday.

The Cougars will face the winner of No. 3 Arizona and No. 14 Stony Brook in the second round.

For the Scarlet Knights, it ends a trying season that included a month-long pause because of multiple COVID-19 tests within the program.

But Rutgers overcame it and went on a tear, reeling off nine consecutive victories to end the regular season with a high-power offense and smothering defense.

The Scarlet Knights, who fell to Iowa in the second round of the Big Ten tournament, looked poised to move on in the NCAA Tournament, but couldn't hold on late.

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Paisley Harding passes the ball as Rutgers' Arella Guirantes defends during No. 11 BYU's upset of the sixth-seeded Scarlet Knights.
Paisley Harding passes the ball as Rutgers' Arella Guirantes defends during No. 11 BYU's upset of the sixth-seeded Scarlet Knights.

Arella Guirantes finished with 30 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Diamond Johnson had 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals.

Guirantes tried to lead the Scarlet Knights to the win in the closing minutes.

Tegan Graham hit a three with 1:18 to go in the fourth quarter to put BYU up by four, but Guirantes responded with a triple of her own.

With 30 seconds left, Mael Gilles fouled Shaylee Gonzales as she shot a three-pointer and Gonzales made all three foul shots to put the Cougars back up by four.

After Gonzales made two more key free throws with 24 seconds left, Liz Martino drained a three from the right corner to bring the Scarlet Knights to within two with five seconds to go.

But after a Guirantes foul, Paisley Harding made one of two to essentially seal the game.

Harding was the catalyst for BYU, finishing with 28 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-9 from the perimeter, to go along with five rebounds.

Three takeaways from the upset:

Scoring drought

Rutgers was up 12 points late in the third quarter and seemed like it was on its way to a convincing victory, but it all fell apart in the fourth quarter.

The Scarlet Knights’ offense went cold and a prolonged scoring drought ensued – Rutgers went five-plus minutes without a basket.

In the meantime, BYU took advantage.

The Cougars went on a 12-0 run to take the lead, with Harding doing much of the work.

Turning it over

Both teams committed plenty of turnovers – Rutgers had 20 and BYU 19.

But BYU capitalized, scoring 22 points off Rutgers’ turnovers while the Scarlet Knights had 13 off the Cougars’.

Rutgers fans cheer during the second half.
Rutgers fans cheer during the second half.

In a close game like this, it made a difference.

Up next for Guirantes

Rutgers has talent coming back next season, especially Johnson, but the Scarlet Knights will likely face the difficult task of replacing Guirantes’ production.

Guirantes, who was in tears after the game, came back this season believing she had more to accomplish at Rutgers, delaying her WNBA future.

But now she will most likely be heading off to begin her pro career.

It’ll be a tough loss for Rutgers to make up.

Follow Chris Iseman on Twitter @chrisiseman

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: BYU bounces Rutgers in first upset of women's NCAA Tournament