<
>

Pondexter hits game-winner as Rutgers rallies

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Cappie Pondexter had the fifth-highest
scoring performance in Rutgers history and the 10th-ranked Scarlet
Knights needed every point.

Pondexter scored a career-high 40 points, including a clutch
jumper with 8 seconds left, and Rutgers (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) rallied to beat South
Florida 66-65 on Wednesday night.

"I just felt unstoppable," Pondexter said.

Pondexter's jumper gave the Scarlet Knights a 66-64 lead. South
Florida's Shantia Grace converted one of two free throws in the
final seconds and the Bulls got the ball back after Pondexter
missed a free throw, but Jessica Dickson missed a desperation heave
at the buzzer.

"It definitely hurts in the locker room," South Florida coach
Jose Fernandez said. "We're an NCAA (tournament) team. We've just
got to win these games. These are the type of games that you need
to win to put you over the top."

Rutgers (11-2, 3-0 Big East) has won 11 straight conference
games dating back to Feb. 6, 2005.

Dickson had a career-high 37 points for South Florida (11-5,
1-2), which, in its last 11 games, has gone 1-4 against teams
ranked in the Top 25.

After four lead changes over a five-minute stretch, South
Florida pulled even at 62 on ChiChi Okpaleke's free throw with 2
minutes remaining. After Dickson and Pondexter exchanged baskets,
Okpaleke missed two free throws with 17 seconds to play.

Rutgers, which trailed by 16 in the first half, took a 55-54
lead on Courtney Locke's 3 with 6:40 to go.

"It shows a lot about our character," Pondexter said. "The
fact that we were able to fight and not give up. We could have
easily folded."

The Scarlet Knights had tied it at 52 with 8½ minutes remaining
after a 15-3 run. Pondexter, the conference's second-leading
scorer, started the stretch with a three-point play after Dickson
hit a 3 to put South Florida ahead 49-37 with 14 minutes left.

"I knew it was going to be a game where her and I would be
going back and forth," Dickson said. "She just made the big shots
in the end. She's a great player."

Dickson, who leads the nation in scoring, had 18 points in the
first half, helping the Bulls take a 32-24 halftime lead.

"It's fun, but it's not really about that," Pondexter said of
the matchup with Dickson. "We're fighting to win a Big East
title."

It the first 40-point game for a Rutgers player since Alicia
Sheeler had 42 at Temple on Feb. 1, 1995.