NYT Writeup of Clones- Rutgers game
N.C.A.A. Tournament | Greensboro Region
With Victory, Rutgers Hopes Its Stock Rises
By KAREN CROUSE
Published: March 25, 2008
DES MOINES — Nothing was getting in the way of Rutgers guard Matee Ajavon making one more trip to the Round of 16. She was very adamant about that, drawing three charges in the first half of the Scarlet Knights’ second-round game against Iowa State at Wells Fargo Arena.
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
The Rutgers sophomore Epiphanny Prince grabbing one of her six rebounds. She had 17 points.
Following the lead of Ajavon, one of three seniors, No. 2-seeded Rutgers played Monday night with the urgency of a program parked in the top 10 with the meter running. Basketball is all about runs, a game’s momentum shifting course like a sailboat on high seas. The best teams weather their opponents’ defensive surges and scoring swells and tack their way to victory. If constancy and consistency are hallmarks of victory, they also are the distinguishing characteristics of all winning programs. The women of Rutgers are keenly aware of this, which is why their 69-58 victory, while expected, was so sweet.
The Scarlet Knights (26-6), who will play George Washington, a team they beat earlier this season, on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C., want to be considered on par with the Tennessees, the Connecticuts, the Stanfords and the L.S.U.’s. They yearn to be a perennial power.
To that end, it was not enough to make the Final Four last year. Rutgers’s run to the championship game, where it lost to Tennessee, was magical, but it would have been so much pixie dust in the wind if the Scarlet Knights could not survive the first week of this postseason.
They did not want go out in 2008 like the Georgetown men, which followed its Final Four appearance last year with a second-round exit.
On paper, Iowa State (21-13) looked like an accommodating foe. The Cyclones played most of the season without their two best low-post players, each lost to knee injuries, and were 7-9 in the Big 12.
“They’re better than us,” Iowa State Coach Bill Fennelly said on the eve of the game. “Everyone knows it.” Then he made it clear he was not making a concession speech, saying, “But we’ve only got to be better for 40 minutes.”
The Cyclones were the superior team for the first five minutes, taking a 4-3 lead before Rutgers’s Essence Carson, a senior do-it-all, hit a baseline jumper to ignite an 8-0 run that put the Scarlet Knights ahead, for good as it turned out.
With a huge assist from the junior Heather Ezell, who counted three 3-pointers among her five first-half baskets, the Cyclones chipped away at a 12-point Rutgers lead, retreating to the locker room at halftime behind by 8, at 39-31.
Kia Vaughn, Rutgers’s 6-foot-4 junior center, had 17 points in the first 20 minutes on 7-of-9 shooting. Epiphanny Prince, the sophomore guard whose reputation for scoring preceded her to Rutgers, was arguably the best defensive player on the floor, contributing four defensive rebounds and two steals in the first half.
Her offense wasn’t too shabby, either. She made 4 of 7 shots in the second half en route to 17 points.
“To me the defense is big because I’m doing the team thing to help,” Prince said. “Scoring is an I thing.”
Two hours before the opening tip, Iowa State fans held a pep rally for the Cyclones at a restaurant across the street from the arena. It was no small gathering. The game drew a crowd of 8,029, and the fans made their allegiances clear, booing every call that went Rutgers’s way and rising to applaud every big Iowa State basket.
The Cyclones’ fans rattled the rafters but if they also hoped to rattle the Rutgers players, they were wasting their collective breath. For the Scarlet Knights, hostile crowds come with the postseason scenery.
Monday’s game marked the fifth time in Rutgers’s last six N.C.A.A. tournament appearances that it was playing a team on its home court or in the state where the opposing school is located.
The Scarlet Knights do not need the public’s adoration (although they got it when the radio shock jock Don Imus opened his mouth last year and stuck his cowboy boot in it). They want to be respected — feared, even — by their competitors.
They moved a big step closer to that goal Monday.
“We wanted another 40 minutes,” Ajavon said. “We had to keep on playing.”
Last edited by Wesley; 03-25-2008 at 10:48 AM.
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