HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Chelsea Newton scored 21 points and No. 9 Rutgers cruised into the semifinals of the Big East tournament with a 69-45 win over St. John's on Sunday.
The Scarlet Knights (24-5) will play fifth-seeded Villanova in the semifinals Monday at the Hartford Civic Center. Rutgers, the regular-season conference champ, has been holding opponents to an average of 50.5 points a game, third best in the nation, and swarmed the Red Storm (19-10) from the start.The top-seeded Scarlet Knights had 11 steals, five blocks and scored 20 points off 23 Red Storm miscues.Rutgers guard Matee Ajavon, the Big East freshman of the year, opened the game with two straight 3-pointers en route to a 14-point performance.Angela Clark had 16 points and six rebounds to lead the eighth-seeded Red Storm, who closed out their most successful season since 1987-88 when they went 22-10. Clark scored the first 13 points of the second half, but by then the Scarlet Knights were in firm control.They led 35-21 at the break and extended the lead to 20 points in the first six minutes of the second half.The Scarlet Knights have won nine straight since a 54-47 loss at Connecticut in the same arena on Feb. 3. But Rutgers avenged that loss and then some in that stretch. The Scarlet Knights clinched their first outright regular-season title, ending UConn's string of 11 straight conference crowns. Now they are aiming for their first tournament championship after reaching the final three times.
The senior class for coach C. Vivian Stringer is the same group that struggled to finish 9-20 during its freshmen year and limped into the tournament last season. Injuries forced Stringer to dress two student managers last year, and the scrappy squad made it to the championship where it lost to Boston College.