Rutgers toughens one out
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — No. 13 DePaul gave ninth-ranked Rutgers a solid workout Saturday in a Big East Conference game at the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center.
The battle finally turned in the Scarlet Knights’ favor with 5 minutes, 24 seconds remaining.
That’s when fifth-year senior Cappie Pondexter hit two foul shots to snap a 50-50 tie and send Rutgers on an 11-0 run that ended in a 67-57 win.
Saturday’s game prepared Rutgers (17-3, 9-0 Big East) for its showdown with No. 4 Connecticut on Tuesday on the Huskies’ campus.
“We hadn’t demonstrated to ourselves that we could play at a certain level, so this was nice,” coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "This was a test. I felt much better (after this win).”
Cappie Pondexter had another impressive effort with 27 points in front of a crowd of 5,376 that included several WNBA coaches.
“Cappie is the player of the year by me,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said afterward. “And not just because we’re both from Chicago."
This is the first year in the Big East for the Blue Demons (18-5, 5-5), who had been part of Conference USA.
“If you really study and watch what this kid’s been doing all year percentage-wise, field goal-wise, three-point wise ... her decision-making is awesome. She’s making very simple plays, and great players know how to make the simple plays,” Bruno said. “She’s obviously defending better, too.”
Pondexter, who was 3 for 5 on three-point attempts, is expected to be among the top three picks in the WNBA draft.
Matee Ajavon added 18 points for the Scarlet Knights, and Essence Carson scored 16.
Allie Quigley led three DePaul players in double figures with 16 points.Rutgers, which has had trouble holding large leads, had to rally in this one from an early 8-0 deficit.
The Scarlet Knights bolted to a 17-13 lead off a 17-5 run with 8 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half.
But the Blue Demons fought back and the teams went into halftime deadlocked at 27-27.
“You have to be smart to finish close games,” Bruno said, alluding to some poor decisions and turnovers by his players. “If you put yourself in position to win over the first 87 percent of the game, you have to continue down the stretch.”
Pondexter compared Saturday’s game to Rutgers’ recent loss to Temple.“They kept coming and we didn’t make stops,” she said of the Owls. “Today, we made stops.”