<
>

Rutgers surges to early lead, routs Robert Morris

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- It didn't matter who Rutgers played. Coach C. Vivian Stringer just wanted to see the Scarlet Knights bounce back after an early exit in the Big East tournament, and she got her wish against Robert Morris.

Kia Vaughn led four players in double figures with 22 points and second-seeded Rutgers routed 15th-seeded Robert Morris 85-42 on Saturday in the first round of the Greensboro Regional. The Scarlet Knights will play seventh-seeded Iowa State in the second round Monday night. The Cyclones held off Georgia Tech, 58-55, in Saturday's opener in Des Moines.

Rutgers entered NCAA tournament play on a two-game losing streak, including an upset loss to Louisville the last time out. In Stringer's eyes, the Scarlet Knights needed to put together a balanced effort -- regardless of the opponent -- and regain some of their lost momentum.

They did just that. Rutgers shot 54.8 percent from the field, outscored Robert Morris 40-8 in the paint and held the Colonials under 50 points for the first time this season.

"We took good shots and played very focused defense," Stringer said. "It was nice to see us establish an inside game. It was nice to see everybody step up and make a difference."

Rutgers (25-6) put Robert Morris on its heels early, opening the game with a 15-2 run. The Colonials (23-10) made a brief surge by hitting six of their next eight shots, but Rutgers closed out the first half with a 30-12 spurt that squashed any notions of a comeback.

Brittany Ray hit a pair of 3s to make it 35-16, and Vaughn hit a jumper in the paint to push the Scarlet Knights ahead by 23 late in the first half. Ray then put the exclamation point on a dominant first half by Rutgers, hitting a 3 just before the buzzer to give the Scarlet Knights a 48-21 lead.

Rutgers shot 21-of-34 from the field in the opening half and held Sade Logan, the Colonials leading scorer, to just two points.

"I think it was vital that we came out strong," Rutgers guard Matee Ajavon said. "We needed to send a statement that we are in control of the game."

Kendra Williams had 11 to lead Robert Morris, which saw its winning streak snapped at 17 games. The lone bright spot for Robert Morris came when Logan tied the Division I record for 3s in a season with 126, set by Alabama State's Lisa McMullen in 1991. But Logan was just 3-of-15 from the field and 2-of-9 from 3-point range, and her frustration was evident as the game wore on.

"We just wanted to limit her touches," Prince said of Logan. "We know she's a great 3-point shooter."

Epiphanny Prince scored 21 points, shooting 4-of-4 from 3-point range, Ray had 14 and Rashidat Junaid added 13 for Rutgers.

Robert Morris' dribble-drive motion offense -- a guard-oriented attack made popular by the Memphis men's team -- was no match for Rutgers' superior size and athleticism. The Colonials shot 12-of-60 from the floor, including 4-of-33 in the second half.

"We just didn't get it done today," Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia said. "We do the best with what we have and I'm proud of what we have done this year."

Rutgers figures to have a much tougher time with Iowa State, in part because it will be playing a virtual road game. Wells Fargo Arena sits just 35 miles from Iowa State's campus, and Cyclones drew over 9,000 fans for their win over the Yellow Jackets.

But Stringer is focused more on Rutgers than anything else right now, and she liked what she saw in the tournament opener.

"We have been struggling a bit, even in wins. I thought that we just looked like we had a great feel for each other," Stringer said. "We have been focusing on a lot of things since we were ousted in the Big East tournament."