Rutgers eliminates Ohio State women

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - All the bumping, pushing and shoving Rutgers did on defense didn't stop Ohio State All-American Jessica Davenport.

It did, however, shut down the rest of the Buckeyes and put the Scarlet Knights a win away from their first Final Four appearance in five years.

Cappie Pondexter scored 24 points, and Rutgers turned 15 Ohio State turnovers into 22 points in posting a 64-58 victory on Sunday.

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''I thought we played great defense, as best we could,'' coach C. Vivian Stringer said after Rutgers held the nation's best shooting team to 39.6 percent.

The third-seeded Scarlet Knights (28-6) will play top-seeded Tennessee (29-4) in the Philadelphia Regional final on Tuesday night for a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis. The Lady Vols defeated Texas Tech 75-59 in the opener of the doubleheader at Temple.

The Scarlet Knights beat Pat Summitt and Tennessee 65-51 on Dec. 29 at the Rutgers Athletic Center. The Lady Vols are 10-2 against the Scarlet Knights, including a 64-54 win in a national semifinal game in Philadelphia in 2000.

''Even though we beat Tennessee, they are a great team and playing a lot better,'' said Rutgers senior Chelsea Newton, who scored 13 points. ''They are not the same team that came to the RAC.''

In reaching the regional final, Rutgers has avenged regular-season losses to Temple and Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat the Scarlet Knights 52-50 on Jan. 16.

In that game, Davenport scored 22 points and dominated inside with her 6-foot-5 size and reach. The sophomore had 22 points and 14 rebounds Sunday, but she struggled to get touches. Rutgers did a great job of getting to loose balls and converting them into second-chance points, holding a 20-7 edge.

''It was physical and there was a lot of bumping for 40 minutes,'' said Davenport, 6-of-11 from the field.

Ohio State coach Jim Foster thought Rutgers got away with too much on defense.

''Are they talented? 'Yes!' Do they have individually great players? 'Yes!''' Foster said. ''Do they have a nice defensive scheme? 'Yes!' Is the game called differently in the postseason than the regular season? 'Yes!'''

Freshman Matee Ajavon added 14 points for the Scarlet Knights, who came into the game limiting opponents to 50.8 points.

Brandie Hoskins scored 12 points for Ohio State (30-5). The Buckeyes shot better than 50 percent in winning their opening two NCAA tournament games and committed only 18 turnovers.

Rutgers' defense, however, was a lot better than Holy Cross and Maryland.

The Scarlet Knights held Ohio State without a field goal for the final 9:50 of the first half in turning an 18-10 deficit into a 27-22 lead.

The key for the Scarlet Knights was the tough play of backup centers Rebecca Richman and Mariota Theodoris. They used their size and muscle to limit the number of touches for Davenport.

Down 39-30 with 11:30 to play, Ohio State made a run, closing within two points three times - the last was 47-45 on a 3-pointer by Marscilla Packer with 6:01 to play.

Davenport had eight points in the run, all in the lane.

''She did get 22 points, but I'm sure it was the hardest 22 points she ever got,'' Richman said. ''We just tried to focus on staying in front and relying on our guards to put a lot of pressure on the ball.''

Michelle Campbell scored on a layup with 4:23 to go after Rutgers got a second-chance possession for a 49-45 lead. After Packer missed a 3-pointer, Pondexter hit a 12-foot banker and added a 3-pointer after a turnover for a 54-45 lead.

''You have to start defense against her at the 3-point line, especially with a player like Cappie,'' said Foster, who coached Pondexter in 2003 on a USA Basketball World Championship team for Young Women.

Ohio State, which was 4-of-17 from 3-point range, never threatened after that. The Buckeyes hit two late 3-pointers to make the game close.

Foster said the biggest problem for Ohio State was the play of point guards Ashley Allen and Kim Wilburn, who combined for 1-of-6 from the field and six turnovers.

''It's not conducive to winning basketball,'' he said.