Rutgers shuts down Lafayette to cruise to 19th straight home win

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer isn't fooled by her team's strong defensive showing lately. Her Scarlet Knights aren't playing the tough schedule that they normally face.

Epiphanny Prince scored 23 points and Kia Vaughn added a season-high 13 to help No. 14 Rutgers win its fifth straight game, 61-29 over Lafayette on Friday night. It was the third time in four games that Rutgers held an opponent under 40 points.

Still, none of those teams were anywhere near being in the Top 25.

"We are considerably far from where I thought we'd be at this point, but I know we're not playing typical Rutgers opponents," the Hall of Fame coach said. "I don't want to fool myself, I know we're better than we played against Cal and Stanford. We will see where we are when Jan. 3 comes around."

The Scarlet Knights (7-2) are off for the next 10 days before facing George Washington on Dec. 29 and then two-time defending champion Tennessee on Jan. 3.

"We'll have a chance to work on some things to make us a better team," Stringer said. "It's important for us to have confidence because we have enough young people that confidence is a factor now."

Rutgers, which has won 19 straight home games, last held an opponent under 30 in November 2000, against Vermont. Stringer had a look of surprise on her face when she heard that stat.

It was the fewest points that Lafayette had scored since 1996 against Saint Joseph's.

With the score tied 4-4, the Scarlet Knights went on a 20-6 run over the next 9 minutes, holding the Leopards without a field goal until Jessica Spicer hit a 3-pointer with 6:27 left in the half. Prince had seven points during the spurt, including a 3-pointer that gave Rutgers a 20-7 advantage with 7:35 left before the break.

Lafayette closed to 26-17 at the half, but could get no closer.

Rutgers opened the second half with an 18-5 run, including five straight points by Heather Zurich, to take a 44-22 lead with 11:18 left. The Scarlet Knights held Lafayette to just one basket during the spurt.

"They really picked it up in the second half defensively," Lafayette coach Tammy Smith said. "We kept turning the ball over. Their defensive intensity took us out of our game."

Spicer and Elizabeth Virgin each scored six points for the Leopards (4-7), who could get no closer than 18 the rest of the way.

Rutgers held a 45-24 rebound advantage in the first meeting between the teams.

"We have the potential to be an outstanding rebounding team," Stringer said. "We just need to make sure we block out."

Vaughn was 6-for-8 from the field and had nine rebounds and three blocks.

"We're getting better and we're starting to understand the little things," she said. "On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give us a 6.5 right now. This break is going to be good for us."