Rutgers edges Northwestern in Big Ten women’s tournament

Kaylene Smikle scored 26 points, Chyna Cornwell had 15 points and 15 rebounds and Rutgers edged Northwestern 63-59 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday.

Smikle put in 21 of her points in the first half but didn’t score in the final quarter when she picked up three fouls, including her fifth. But Cornwell and Awa Sidibe scored five apiece in the fourth to squeeze out the win.

The 11th-seeded Scarlet Knights (12-19) take on six-seed Illinois on Thursday.

Smikle was 9-of-15 shooting with four 3-pointers and Cornwell picked up her ninth double-double of the season. Sidibe scored 11 points. Smikle, the only Rutgers player to score over 20 points this season, has 551 in her career to break the program record for a freshman.

Caileigh Walsh was 7-of-15, including 6 of 9 from the arc, to score 24 points for the 14th-seeded Wildcats (9-21). Paige Mott added 11.

Northwestern trailed by eight entering the fourth quarter then tied the game twice, the final time with 3:50 to go on Mott’s basket. Cornwell scored five points after that and Sidibe and Kai Carter made free throws to hold off Northwestern despite two 3-pointers by Walsh in the final minute.

Northwestern jumped out to a 13-5 lead but Rutgers was up 20-16 at the end of the first quarter after a 3-pointer by Smikle. Rutgers led 37-30 at halftime.

Rutgers also defeated Northwestern during the regular season, 62-48 on Feb. 15.