HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Rutgers' trademark defense has the
Scarlet Knights playing for the Big East tournament title for the
second straight year.
Led by Cappie Pondexter and conference freshman of the year
Matee Ajavon, No. 9 Rutgers turned up the pressure on Villanova to
erase an 11-point deficit and pull away for a 64-59 victory in the
semifinals Monday night.
The Wildcats frustrated Rutgers for much of the first half with
their deliberate tempo and had a 31-20 lead at the break. Rutgers
changed that in a hurry.
"We knew what it took. We came out the second half and played
our style," Rutgers guard Cappie Pondexter said.
Pondexter had nine of her 15 points in 15-0 second-half run,
sparked by the Scarlet Knights' press. Rutgers is allowing only
50.3 points a game, tops in the league and third best in the
Matee Ajavon led the top-seeded Scarlet Knights (25-5) with 16
points and five steals.
Rutgers, which will play Connecticut on Tuesday night for the
tournament title, won its 10th straight.
The Wildcats (19-11) built a 31-20 lead at the break on 7-of-12
3-point shooting, using all of the shot clock to get the shot they
"It's always extremely difficult playing Villanova," Rutgers
coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "The players are so well
disciplined. We were exchanging twos for threes."
The Scarlet Knights threw a fullcourt press at the Wildcats
early in the second half to pick up the pace. Pondexter started the
key run with a three-point play with 14:49 left. Over the next 4
minutes, Ajavon had two steals, the Scarlet Knights forced
Villanova into four turnovers and Pondexter capped the run with a
layup for a 43-39 lead.
"There's nowhere you can throw the ball where they're not
there," Villanova coach Harry Perretta said.
The Wildcats didn't stray from their game plan and had a chance
for an upset in the closing minutes.
Katia Levitsky's layup with 1:56 left got Villanova to 55-53,