8:00 PM ET, March 5, 2007
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Rutgers will get a third shot at Connecticut, and this time it's for the Big East tournament title.Matee Ajavon scored 20 points and Kia Vaughn had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Scarlet Knights (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today; No. 19 AP) to a 63-55 win over Marquette (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today; No. 21 AP) and into their fifth conference title game. They lost the other four.Rutgers (21-8) will play UConn (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today; No. 2 AP), the regular-season and two-time defending tournament champion, on Tuesday night. The Huskies beat Louisville (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today; No. 23 AP) 76-50 in the first semifinal.UConn also beat Rutgers twice this season, 60-50 in Storrs on Feb. 6 and 70-44 at home on Feb. 26."What it really boils down to is how much we want this game tomorrow," Essence Carson said.Krystal Ellis led Marquette (25-6) with 20 points, but only six of those came after intermission. Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer decided at halftime to keep Carson, the Big East's defensive player of the year, on Ellis and shut her down."We probably should have just done that at the beginning," Stringer said. "And as you can see, there is only one player who played 40 minutes, and that's Essence. She's got to be there."Rutgers trailed 33-31 at halftime, before opening the second half with a 17-4 run.The Golden Eagles cut the deficit to four points three times in the closing minutes, but could get no closer.A 3-pointer from Carson with 1:32 left put Rutgers up 61-55. Vaughn pulled down a big rebound with 37 seconds left and Epiphanny Prince hit two free throws at the other end to secure the win.Marquette jumped out to an 11-5 lead behind three 3-pointers from Ellis, and led by as many as eight points early."In the first half, we weren't defending any shooter," Carson said. "That's when we realized if we wanted to play for the championship we were going to have to play some defense."Rutgers used an 11-2 run to get back in the game and take a 25-24 lead. Vaughn had 14 of the Scarlet Knights' first 20 points.Marquette's Efueko Osagie-Landry was helped off the court with 3:45 after taking a hard foul from Myia McCurdy on a layup attempt. Erin Monfre came in to attempt the free throws but missed both of them. Osagie-Landy returned for the end of the game.Prince had 10 points for the Scarlet Knights and Kelly Lam had 11 for Marquette.Rutgers also beat the Golden Eagles 66-56 in January, but Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said the Scarlet Knights are much better now."The younger players have realized just how good they are," she said.Stringer agreed and said her team is also better than the one that played UConn a week ago."We can improve in hours," she said.Rutgers is 0-5 against UConn in the Big East tournament, and has lost three times to the Huskies in the championship, in 1998, 2000, and '05.
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||20-55 (.364)||20-48 (.417)|
|3P Made-Attempted||6-19 (.316)||2-12 (.167)|
|FT Made-Attempted||9-14 (.643)||21-26 (.808)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||12 (0/0)|