March 18, 2007
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -Rutgers looks as of it's ready to play anybody, anywhere.
Matee Ajavon scored 20 points, and Kia Vaughn added 14 to help the fourth-seeded Scarlet Knights rout East Carolina 77-34 on Sunday night in the first round of the Greensboro Regional.
The Scarlet Knights (23-8) advanced to play Michigan State (24-8) on the Spartans' home floor Tuesday night.
When the possible matchup was revealed, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer wasn't happy.
"I am not going to say anything because I have thousands of dollars in fines right now," Stringer said last Sunday night.
A week later, Stringer was still stewing.
"One of these days, I'm going to say a lot of things," she said. "But right now, in my capacity, I'm happy to play Michigan State. I'm excited. My team is excited.
"It doesn't matter where we play."
On Jan. 28 at home, the Scarlet Knights rallied to beat Michigan State 63-57 with a 12-2 run to end the game.
East Carolina (19-14) was outmatched from the start, and the game was essentially over when Rutgers went on a 13-0 run to lead 31-12 with 7:24 left in the first half.
"Any time a team makes a run like that, it's going to get into your head," Lady Pirates center Cherie Mills said. "Still, we're not supposed to give up.
"We'll learn from it. I'm pretty sure, that's not the last time you'll see East Carolina."
As if the game was still in doubt, the Scarlet Knights scored the first 12 points of the second half and went ahead by 34.
"We were just in the flow of the game," Ajavon said. "We were fortunate to get a 13-0 run. That opened up the game."
Stringer took out most of her starters midway through the second half ahead by 30-plus points, but reserves added to the lead.
Mills scored 13 and Jasmine Young had eight points for the Lady Pirates, who had won their previous 10 games.
Rutgers and East Carolina won their conference tournament titles, in the Big East and Conference USA, respectively, for the first time in school history.
But that was the only thing they seemed to have in common.
Rutgers was quicker, bigger and more talented at every position and is in the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year and ninth time in 10 years.
East Carolina made its second appearance in the NCAA tournament and first since 1982, when it lost 79-54 to South Carolina.
Rutgers held East Carolina to a season-low 34 points.
"Rutgers is very well-balanced, they can score inside and out, but I never would've thought we would shoot 16 percent from the floor," Lady Pirates coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener said. "I'm not sure if we were nervous, or what, but Rutgers had a lot to do with it."
Ajavon, who won Big East tournament MVP honors, scored her team's first seven points and had 11 of her 20 in the first half to help Rutgers lead 43-21.
She had plenty of help.
Besides Vaughn, who scored in double digits, Epiphanny Prince, Heather Zurich and Dee Dee Jernigan each had nine points.
"Today was not the day to let down," Stringer said. "The tone was set with Matee, and with Heather. Those two made the difference."
Rutgers improved to 11-4 in first-round games.
"Rutgers is one of those teams that is feeling confident, not cocky, and we continue to grow," Stringer said.