7:30 PM ET, January 11, 2005
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Freshman Matee Ajavon put on a show that thrilled even the most decorated of her teammates in Rutgers' (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) 68-41 victory Tuesday night over Pittsburgh."She's just awesome," said senior Cappie Pondexter, a two-time All-Big East point guard. "She's a great scorer, so strong and confident on the court. You just enjoy watching her play."Ajavon scored 12 of her 14 first-half points in a 16-3 run as Rutgers (11-2, 2-0 Big East) rolled to a 22-9 lead. She added eight points in a two-minute span in the second half when Rutgers was on an 18-0 run.Rutgers broke away from a 34-25 halftime lead with its pressing defense."It was important for us to play inspired against Pittsburgh," coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "We had to make sure we weren't disarmed by a team we should beat. We have to be alert not to lose our intensity."The Scarlet Knights forced seven straight turnovers in one three-minute span while outscoring the Panthers 11-0 and finished with a season-high 27 takeaways in their sixth straight victory.The Scarlet Knights had 18 steals, their best showing since forcing 20 against Syracuse on Dec. 13, 1998.Essence Carson, another freshman, added 12 points for the Scarlet Knights. Katie Histed had 13 points for Pittsburgh (9-5, 1-2).The Scarlet Knights' biggest first-half lead was 28-14 with 4:40 remaining. Pittsburgh outscored Rutgers 11-6 in the final four minutes of the half to cut the gap to 34-25 at the break.Histed hit a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the second half to cut the margin to six, but Rutgers turned on the press to effectively put the game out of reach."This team is having fun," Stringer said. "It's just the character and disposition of the team. They're an easy group to be around and to coach."Ajavon was not made available because Stringer does not permit postgame interviews of freshmen.