Rutgers rallies from Tennessee loss to rout South Florida

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Rather than dwell on a controversial loss, Rutgers moved on.

The Scarlet Knights (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) shot a season-best 61.9 percent to rout South Florida 71-50 Saturday night, giving coach C. Vivian Stringer her 797th career victory less than a week after nearly becoming the first team to beat the No. 1 team in the country in successive games.

Matee Ajavon scored 14 points and Epiphanny Prince and Myia McCurdy added 10 apiece in the team's first outing since a 59-58 loss at No. 1 Tennessee -- a game Rutgers lost when the Lady Vols hit two free throws after the clock seemed to pause with two-tenths of a second left, allowing a foul to be called before time expired.

The Scarlet Knights knocked Connecticut out of the No. 1 spot two games ago and would have become the first team to topple top-ranked teams in consecutive games if not for last Monday's bizarre ending in Knoxville.

"Everybody saw the tape and everybody saw the highlights," USF coach Jose Fernandez said. "Those free throws should have never been shot. If they weren't shot, they'd be the No. 1 team in the country, right now. ... You feel for Vivian and feel for her kids."

There's no question the Scarlet Knights are playing as well as anyone.

Stringer said the disappointing finish at Tennessee was a learning experience.

"Aside from playing in the atmosphere that we did, which was lots of people and so much on the line, I thought we also learned that you've got to take care of your own business. And even when you do, you can't be sure that things are right," Stringer said.

"I think if anything, it probably put us in a high alert -- heightened our awareness of the need to cover ourselves and not get frustrated when we see strange things happen. ... So whatever would happen here or anywhere else, we shouldn't be surprised because we've seen it all."

USF (12-12, 2-9) shot just under 29 percent (15-of-52) and was limited to 20 points in the second half. Shantia Grace led the Bulls with 30 points on 8-for-15 shooting, but got little help from her teammates, who were 7-for-37.

Grace had 22 in the opening half and led a 13-6 surge that enabled USF to pull even at 25-all. Rutgers responded with a 12-2 run, opening a 10-point lead before settling for a 39-30 edge at the break.

The closest the Bulls got after that was eight points in the opening minute of the second half. Rutgers, which has won 26 straight against unranked opponents, led by as many as 25 down the stretch.

Scarlet Knights reserves outscored the Bulls' bench 31-3, with McCurdy making four of five shots and Brittany Ray contributing eight points in 13 minutes in her second game after missing eight games following surgery to repair a meniscus tear in her right knee.

For the second time this season, every player on the Rutgers roster scored.

"I think all of us were just confident in our shots. Nobody was hesitating," Ray said. "We were just letting the game flow. Nobody was forcing anything."