No. 3 Rutgers' starters fuel runs in Maggie Dixon Classic win

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer sent a clear message to her team: Play hard or sit.

Coming off a disappointing loss at Duke (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) on Thursday night, Stringer benched her starters Saturday in a 59-42 victory over Army in the second game of the Maggie Dixon Classic.

"I thought the backups could set the tone for the game and they did," Stringer said. "I thought I'd try something different."

Rashidat Junaid had a career-high 15 points and 10 rebounds and Rutgers (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) used two huge runs to beat Army.

The Black Knights (5-4) were able to build a 19-15 lead on Nalini Hawkins' 3-pointer with 5:31 left in the first half against the Scarlet Knights' reserves.

"It didn't shock me," Army coach Dave Magarity said of facing the reserves at the start. "We still were playing Rutgers and it didn't matter who they started. They are such a fundamentally sound team."

Stringer was planning on playing the reserves as long as they played hard.

"I knew for sure they were going to play for at least five minutes," she said. "I don't think we made a change for at least nine minutes."

When Stringer finally inserted her usual starters, Rutgers responded, closing the half with a 13-2 run capped by Brittany Ray's 3-pointer to take a 28-21 lead.

"We just have to go out and play hard every night and not play to the level of the opponent," Rutgers leading scorer Epiphanny Prince said. "The other five played harder and they deserved to start tonight."

The Scarlet Knights (6-2) continued their spurt in the second half. After Army had closed to 31-25 on Courtney Wright's layup, Rutgers went on a 16-2 run to extend its lead to 47-27 with 11:23 left and put the game away.

The Black Knights would get no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.

The only starter who didn't play for Rutgers was Heather Zurich, but she was sick with a virus.

"Heather had to get fluids yesterday," Stringer said. "There are enough people sick on this team to make you think it's something they all ate."

Essence Carson only played six minutes and Kia Vaughn also saw limited action.

Alex McGuire scored 13 points to pace Army, which lost its leading scorer Cara Enright to an ankle injury early in the first half.

Despite the loss, McGuire knows that Dixon would have liked the team's effort Saturday.

"She would have been with happy with it," McGuire said. "I'm sure she's up there smiling now. We never quit and that's what she instilled in us."

Duke beat Pittsburgh 51-49 in the first game of the first women's doubleheader at Madison Square Garden in 26 years.

Between the games, all four teams stood on the court during a ceremony honoring Dixon, the late Army coach. Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared Saturday "Maggie Dixon Day" in New York City.

The inaugural Maggie Dixon Classic was played at West Point last year. Dixon died April 6, 2006 of arrhythmia, probably caused by an enlarged heart. Her death came three weeks after her first season as a head coach, a performance that won the admiration of the academy and all of college basketball.

"Maggie Dixon was a young amazing coach, struck down in her prime," Stringer said. "The Maggie Dixon Classic speaks to great coaches and this was a young woman who inspired so many people to be coaches."

The last women's doubleheader at MSG was played in 1981 with Rutgers, Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion and Cheyney State. Stringer was the coach of Cheyney State then.

A portion of the proceeds from the games will go to C.A.R.E (Cardiac Arrhythmias Research and Education Foundation, Inc.). C.A.R.E. offered free heart screening for any child or teenager attending the Classic.