WNIT: Rutgers Outlasts UTEP 56-54, Earns First WNIT Title

Tyler Scaife and Kahleah Copper both scored 18 points, as Rutgers held off UTEP 56-54 to capture the 2014 WNIT Post Season Championship.

What a game.

Rutgers survived a ferocious second half UTEP fury, winning in the final two seconds to cut down the nets in celebration of their first ever WNIT Championship.

Rutgers packed the paint and made things more than difficult for the Miners in the first half offensively, making UTEP more conservative than usual, while constantly looking to officials for help in part to the physical style Rutgers plays defensively.

UTEP shot 4/22 from the field in the first half, and thanks to a 12-3 early run from Rutgers, UTEP found its self down 24-14 with 6:02 left after a jumper from Alexis Burke.

Rutgers forced 13 turnovers in the first frame, that lead to 14 points the Scarlet Knight way, also dominating points in the paint with a 14-4 stain in the first half.

The Scarlet Knights scored the last six points of the half, and almost had eight straight as a last second attempt from Tyler Scaife came up short, but Rutgers still took a commanding 30-16 lead after the first twenty minutes.

Kahleah Cooper picked things right back up off the second half inbounds with a jumper, then off of a Chrishuanna Parker turnover, Bentijah Laney made it hurt with a layup, giving Rutgers its largest lead 34-16 just 1:19 into the second half.

Kelli Wilingham gave UTEP life on the next possession with her first triple of the game, followed by a Cameasha Turner make from deep that would propel the Miners on a 10-1 run after a pair of Kayla Thornton free throws cut the lead to 37-26 Rutgers with 15:06 left.

Still Rutgers was unfazed, but the Miners kept coming.

After another jumper from Scaife extended the lead back to 39-26 Rutgers, a three pointer from Jenzel Nash, followed up by a nice pass from Stacie Telles to Kristine Vitola finished off a 10-0 Miner charge, that saw UTEP down 39-36 at the 11:39 mark.

Briyona Canty quieted the crowd a couple of minutes later with Rutgers first made three pointer since March 3rd, the dagger kept the Knights at bay, holding a 44-39 lead with nine and a half minutes left to play.

Despite the two game changing second half runs, things seemed to be getting away from UTEP again after Scaife laid one in to give Rutgers a 48-42 lead at the 7:13 mark, but the sold out home crowd wouldn't let the Miners go easily.

UTEP answered with a 8-1 run, and after two free throws from Parker, UTEP took its first lead at 50-49 with 3:53 to play.

Down two with under two minutes left, Jenzel Nash had a costly turnover that lead to a Rachel Hollivay layup and a 54-50 Rutgers lead with 1:26 left.

Though the Miners had their chances in the final minute.

Fouled on a rebound after Canty missed a front end of her one and one, Vitola sank two free throws to bring UTEP back within two with a minute left.

UTEP had a chance to tie things up at 54, but Wilingham uncharacteristically missed a pair of free throws, but Scaife missed her first on a one and one try giving UTEP another chance to tie things.

Jenzel Nash had her driving layup blocked on the next possession, but Chrishuanna Parker made the Haskins Center explode with a put back on the offensive rebound tying things up with just 5 seconds left.

Tyler Scaife would then take the inbound pass the length of the court and laid one in to give Rutgers back the lead at 56-54 with 2.1 seconds left.

After a Miner timeout, Kristine Vitola threw an errant pass at hopes of a running buzzer beater that was broken up by Rutgers as time expired on the Miners dream WNIT ride.

UTEP shot 25 percent from the field, and finished with 19 turnovers, Kristine Violta lead all UTEP scorers with 16 points, and 8 rebounds, Jenzel Nash finished with 11 points, but no other Miner scored in double figures.

The Miners were able to own the boards with a 47-36 edge, but Rutgers defense was just too much as the Miners never really found a consistent rhythm on offense.

Scaife scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half, including six huge points in the games final two minutes that put UTEP away, she was also named to the all tournament team.  Copper was named tournament MVP and had a double-double in the first half, she finished with 12 rebounds to go along with her 18 points.

Thornton and Vitola both earned all tournament team honors, but were a combined 6 for 25 from the field in championship finale.

A great ride of season from Coach Adams and this great group of ladies despite the final of the game, the future is certainly bright, but the 2013-14 season will always be remembered as special.

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