Scarlet Knights will next face Temple

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- The constant booing from the Connecticut faithful didn't bother Cappie Pondexter or Rutgers.

Pondexter scored 22 points and hit five straight shots in an early 21-2 run, leading the third-seeded Scarlet Knights to a 62-37 victory over Hartford on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The guard was the subject of constant harassment for her involvement in a much-publicized exchange with Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma in the Big East tournament final earlier this month in Hartford.

"She came out real hot and she was pumped up from the start," Hartford guard Erika Messam said of Pondexter. "The crowd got her going a little bit and she was anxious. She got hot, made a couple of buckets and got them going early."

The victory was the 11th in 12 games for Rutgers (26-6), and it advanced to a rematch Tuesday against Temple. The Owls beat Rutgers 71-60 on Dec. 13, when Pondexter, the Scarlet Knights' leading scorer, wasn't with the team for undisclosed reasons.

Pondexter was outstanding Sunday, hitting 10-of-15 shots from the field. The crowd at rival Connecticut's home court booed her every time she touched the ball or had her name announced.

The bad feelings were the result of Pondexter's run-in with Auriemma late in Rutgers' loss to the Huskies.

Pondexter felt Auriemma said something derogatory and confronted him during the postgame handshakes. The conference investigated and found Auriemma did nothing wrong.

While Pondexter refused to say much about the crowd, coach C. Vivian Stringer was thrilled with the way she responded to both the jeers and the memory of a bad performance in the opening round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

"I asked her, 'What are you going to do?'" Stringer said. "'The same thing you did before? Choke and start crying. Or are you going to recover?'"

Pondexter chose the latter in ending the season for 14th-seeded Hartford (22-9), which is coached by former UConn star Jen Rizzotti, who is expecting her first baby April 11.

Rizzotti expected the fans to be cheering for Hartford.

"Obviously the fans in this state are very loyal," Rizzotti said. "They are going to get fired up about somebody who attacks their head coach. You know how Geno's God around here, so when somebody attacks him it's like they're an enemy of the state."

Essence Carson added nine points and nine rebounds for Rutgers.

Danielle Hood had nine points to lead Hawks, who were held to 10 field goals, tying an NCAA record for fewest in a game. Hartford shot a season-low 26.3 percent.

Rutgers shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and held the Hawks of the America East Conference to six field goals on 21 shots in taking a 34-18 lead.

Rutgers was never challenged in coasting to a get-even game with Temple, which has never made it past the second round in five NCAA Tournament appearances.