Rutgers shuts down Arizona State, gains Final Four slotMar 27, 2007 - 5:42 AM GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Rutgers is showing that defense goes a long way.
Matee Ajavon scored 20 points to lead the fourth-seeded Scarlet Knights to a 64-45 victory over third-seeded Arizona State in the championship game of the Greensboro Regional.
Center Kia Vaughn added 17 points and 10 rebounds as Rutgers (26-8) won its seventh straight game and advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2000.
The Scarlet Knights, who stunned top-seeded Duke, 53-52, in the regional semifinal on Saturday, again rode their suffocating defense to victory. They will play either Connecticut or Louisiana State in the national semifinals on Sunday.
"Who would have thunk it. I'm still trying to pinch myself," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "I can't thank my coaching staff enough. We were very well prepared. This has been a most-rewarding year. We were struggling at the beginning but I have seen a lot of growth in this team."
It was the 24th win in the last 28 games for the Scarlet Knights, who started the season 2-4, including a 40-point drubbing at the hands of Duke.
"This entire run in the NCAA (Tournament) has been unreal," guard Essence Carson said. "But, at the same time, we understand that all the hard work we put in brought us here. Our coaches have prepared us for this entire season. They told us that it doesn't matter where we came from. It's about where we are going."
Leading, 31-25, at halftime, Rutgers held the Sun Devils (31-5) to just two field goals in the first 13 1/2 minutes of the second half.
Arizona State still was within 41-31 midway through the half, but Epiphanny Prince buried a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 spurt that extended Rutgers' lead to 50-32 with 7:40 to play.
Prince finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Essence Carson added 11 and eight to help the Scarlet Knights to a dominating 48-26 advantage on the boards.
"Rutgers is playing so well right now, they are playing with a lot of confidence a younger team, they don't know any better," Sun Devils coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "I feel like they are out there playing loose and playing great defense. They are rebounding well. I think that's what you need to win a championship."
Briann January scored 12 points to lead Arizona State, which shot 33 percent (16-of-49) from the floor. Emily Westerberg, the team's leading scorer, was limited to six points on 2-of-7 shooting.
"I think it was tremendous defense and they had some very good athletes," Westerberg said. "I think we have seen some great defenses in the Pac-10, so I don't know if it is the best one all year. I think they did a good job of forcing us to work in our offense and I don't think we did a very good job of hitting some of the shots that we needed to."
The teams were scheduled to play earlier in the season in the championship game of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The game was canceled, however, when Jordan Johnson - the brother of the Sun Devils' Aubree Johnson - died in his sleep due to an enlarged heart the night before the game.
- GREENSBORO REGIONAL
AT GREENSBORO NC
NCAA WOMENS BB GREENSBORO REGIONAL
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
RUTGERS (4) 31 33 64
ARIZONA ST (3) 25 20 45 FINAL
Mar 26 9:06 PM
- GREENSBORO REGIONAL
AT GREENSBORO NC
NCAA WOMENS BB (4) RUTGERS 31
(3) ARIZONA ST 25 HALFTIME
Mar 26 7:49 PM
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