7:00 PM ET, March 19, 2006
Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, New Jersey
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer publicly ripped the NCAA Tournament selection committee for putting the Scarlet Knights in a region that also includes North Carolina and Tennessee.Maybe she should have included No. 14 seed Dartmouth in that group as well.Rutgers scored the first 13 points of the game but never pulled away after that and had to beat back a furious second-half rally by the Big Green to escape with a 63-58 win Sunday in the first round of the Cleveland Regional.Cappie Pondexter scored 21 points and Matee Ajavon added 19 for third-seeded Rutgers (26-4), who rebounded from a stunning loss in the Big East Tournament two weeks ago. But it didn't come easily.Dartmouth point guard Angie Soriaga scored 20 of her 23 points in the second half and nearly pulled the Big Green (23-7) even in the final seconds. But she slipped and fell into Rutgers' Essence Carson and was called for an offensive foul with 13.7 seconds left and Dartmouth trailing 61-58.Pondexter sank two free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to provide the final margin."I'm glad we got that one out of the way," said a relieved Stringer after Rutgers advanced to play either Texas Christian or Texas A&M on Tuesday night. "I was greatly concerned about Dartmouth. This kind of game is uncomfortable as a rule, because of the style of play. Fortunately we're going to go on and see another style of play."The game was the first for Rutgers since it entered the Big East tournament as the No. 1 seed and lost by 16 points in the second round to a 12th-seeded West Virginia team that was without its leading scorer.It appeared at the outset Sunday that the Scarlet Knights were ready to make Dartmouth pay for their early exit in the conference tourney.But after the initial burst to start the game, Rutgers struggled to increase its lead and was frequently a step behind in the second half as Soriaga weaved in and around them for open 3-pointers."That kid was getting open looks for that shot," Stringer said. "As a team, we usually play extremely well getting out on the 3."Rutgers employed a full-court press from its opening basket and the tactic paid off as Dartmouth went scoreless for the first 5 minutes as the Scarlet Knights built a 13-0 lead. Rutgers led 26-10 before Dartmouth rallied and trailed 32-25 at the half as Soriaga hit a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt at the buzzer."That was my first make of the game and it got me some confidence," Soriaga said. "We were expecting to come here and get the upset, and we stayed with them as they got tired toward the end of the game."Rutgers got the lead back to 14 (43-29) early in the second half before Soriaga went to work and scored eight points in a 12-5 spurt that brought Dartmouth to within six points at 50-44.Dartmouth had two chances to tie the game in the final minute after missed free throws by Ajavon and Pondexter, but Ashley Taylor missed a 3-pointer and Carson drew the foul on Soriaga.Rutgers had just two field goals in the final 5:38, but it was just enough."We have to continue to get better," Pondexter said.Stringer put the players through intense double practice sessions after the West Virginia loss, and now must take another look at where her No. 9-ranked team sits after a close call against the No. 14 seed."I didn't see the kinds of things I should have seen," she said. "We were just rusty, but I don't want to use our legs as an excuse. Dartmouth played gritty, they played tough and they took it to us."
|FG Made-Attempted||22-56 (.393)||25-59 (.424)|
|3P Made-Attempted||9-23 (.391)||3-8 (.375)|
|FT Made-Attempted||5-6 (.833)||10-13 (.769)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||13 (0/0)||11 (0/0)|