Prince scores 26 as Rutgers opens season with easy win

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- A new season brought a new uptempo look for Rutgers.

Epiphanny Prince scored 26 points and had a career-high seven steals to help No. 3 Rutgers beat Saint Joseph's 86-59 in the opener for both teams Friday.

"This year we can be a threat offensively," said Kia Vaughn, who added 11 points for the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers has now won 15 straight at home since a season-opening loss to Stanford last year. The Scarlet Knights, who only scored more than 73 points once last season, were able to go with a fast-paced offense now that coach C. Vivian Stringer has depth.

"The idea is to push the tempo," Stringer said. "We haven't had 12 people in a long time and we're looking to get to the basket. Our depth is our key."

Last season, Rutgers had only eight healthy players and the Scarlet Knights were forced to play a more methodical style working the 30-second shot clock down.

It only took about 10 minutes for the Scarlet Knights to display their uptempo offense and take control of this game.

With Rutgers leading 9-7, Prince ignited a 14-0 run with a layup and a steal that led to Brittany Ray's three-point play. Ray added another 3-pointer before the spurt was finished and Rutgers held a 23-7 lead.

"We weren't trying to do that last year," Prince said of the fast-paced style.

Jenna Loschiavo scored 15 points to lead Saint Joseph's, which could get no closer than 12 after the run.

Rutgers, coming off a loss to Connecticut in the regional finals last season, brought in one of the most talented recruiting classes in Stringer's career. Gone to the pros are stars Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson.

Ajavon, the fifth selection in the 2008 WNBA draft, was the team's second-leading scorer (12.8) and top assist maker (5.2) last year. The seventh pick, Carson was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the past three seasons.

Stringer added recruits Nikki Speed, April Sykes, Jasmine Dixon, Brooklyn Pope and Chelsey Lee.

The freshmen started to enter the game with about 5 minutes left in the first half and Rutgers holding a 12-point lead. They made an immediate impact.

"All our freshmen are really energetic," Rutgers senior Heather Zurich said. "Having fresh people on the floor helps."

Speed hit a jumper and Pope put back her own miss. She also had a steal right before the half and threw the ball down the court to Dixon for a lay-in at the buzzer that gave the Scarlet Knights a 44-24 advantage.

Pope finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in 10 minutes.

"I see sparks of greatness in her," Vaughn said of Pope.

The only freshman who didn't see action was Sykes, who sprained her right ankle in an exhibition game.

Rutgers also welcomed back Khadijah Rushdan, who redshirted last season after tearing her ACL on Dec. 30.

The Scarlet Knights will host Princeton on Tuesday before a trip to the Bay Area to face No. 9 California and second-ranked Stanford next weekend.

Saint Joseph's won 17 games last season, but lost to Rutgers 56-50 on Nov. 28.

"They brought consistency this year," Saint Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said. "The freshmen came right in and picked up where the other kids left off."

The Hawks will host Lehigh on Sunday.