El Paso, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Tyler Scaife's coast-to-coast layup with 2.1
seconds remaining gave Rutgers its first-ever Women's National Invitation
Tournament title with a 56-54 victory over UTEP in Saturday's championship
game from the Haskins Center.
Scaife's deciding bucket capped a furious final six minutes in which neither team led by more than three points and the lead changed hands twice. The Scarlet Knights owned a 54-50 edge with just over a minute left before two Kristine Vitola free throws and Chrishauna Parker's putback with 8.0 seconds remaining drew the Miners even.
Scaife then dribbled the length of the floor and converted a short runner with time winding down to put Rutgers (28-9) ahead to stay. She finished with 18 points, while Kahleah Copper also had 18 along with 12 rebounds.
Vitola had 16 points and eight rebounds for UTEP (29-8), which battled back from a 14-point halftime deficit to nearly force overtime.
Rutgers held a 30-16 lead at intermission and was up 37-24 early in the second half before the Miners put together a 15-4 run to close the gap. Jenzel Nash's 3-point play capped the flurry and cut the deficit to 41-39 with 10 minutes remaining.
An 8-0 spurt that culminated with two Parker free throws with just over five minutes to go put UTEP on top by a 50-48 count, but Rutgers countered with a 6-0 burst and grabbed a 54-50 lead on Rachel Hollivay's layup off a Miners' turnover with 1:26 to go.