Rutgers advances with 59-39 win over St. Joseph's
Posted: Sunday March 19, 2000 10:57 PM
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- No matter what the statistics say, no one plays defense like Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights won the battle of two of the nation's stingiest defenses by limiting St. Joseph's to its lowest point total since the 1982-83 season, a 59-39 victory Sunday night in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament.
"They felt they had the best defense and we knew we had one of the best defenses in the land, so we took that as a challenge and we tried to prove our point that we are the best defensive team," said Rutgers forward Davalyn Cunningham, who scored all 10 of her points in the second half to help break open the game.
The victory in the West Regional advanced No. 2 seed Rutgers (24-7) to the round of 16 for the third straight year and prevented 10th-seeded St. Joseph's (25-6) from reaching that stage for the first time.
Rutgers, which lost in the final eight last year to eventual national champion Purdue, will face either Alabama-Birmingham or Mississippi State on Saturday in Portland, Ore.
St. Joe's came into the game with the nation's second best defense (52.9 points), two spots better than Rutgers (55.0). However, the difference between the two wasn't that close on Sunday.
The 39 points were the lowest for the Hawks since a 66-33 loss to Cheyney State on Feb. 10, 1983. Cheyney State was coached by C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers' current coach.
St. Joseph's shot 23 percent and made just 13 field goals against Rutgers matchup zone defense that was spiced with an occasional junk defense.
"It starts to wear on you after a while," said point guard Tasha Pointer, who led Rutgers with 16 points while adding nine rebounds and committing two turnovers against St. Joe's defense.
"You can't continue to think,' she added. "It's just like: `I know it's a matchup, but I don't know which matchup it is.' "
St. Joseph's top three players -- Angela Zampella, Susan Moran and Jana Lichnerova combined to hit 9 of 47 shots and score 28 points.
Moran's struggles seemed to sum up the game for the Hawks. The Irish national player was 2 of 15 from the field and had seven points just two days after scoring 24 in beating Texas.
Rutgers' solution was to have center Tammy Sutton-Brown guard her, using a three-inch size advantage.
"I was worrying about her a bit too much," Moran said. "I think I lost a little faith in myself, which I probably should not have done. I tried to change my shot."
Zampella had 12 points for the Hawks, while Lichnerova, who got a welt under her left eye in the opening minute added nine on 3 of 17 shooting.
"The fact that they are physical and all over the passing lanes makes it tough," Lichnerova said.
Despite its woes on offense, St. Joe's defense kept it in the game until the second half.
A 3-pointer by Lichnerova, the Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year, cut Rutgers' lead to 23-22 in the opening seconds of the second half.
The Scarlet Knights responded with a 23-7 spurt, during which Cunningham scored all her points and Sutton-Brown added five. Rutgers limited the Hawks to 3-for-18 shooting and forced six turnovers during the spurt.
St. Joseph's previous low this season was 53 points in a loss to Virginia Tech.
There were seven lead changes and two ties in the first half, which ended with Rutgers ahead 23-19.
It was a physical game. Less than 30 seconds in, Lichnerova was hit below the left eye going for a rebound and she played the rest of the way with a black welt.
Usha Gilmore added 12 points for Rutgers, which was limited to
36 percent shooting from the field, 21 of 58. Leading scorer
Shawnetta Stewart had just two points of 1-of-10 shooting.