Pointer lends a hand
Rutgers guard dishes out 18 assists in rout
Updated: Saturday March 17, 2001 11:53 PM
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- It wasn't a perfect game for Tasha Pointer and Rutgers. It was close though.
Pointer set an NCAA women's tournament record with 18 assists, and Rutgers started its road back to the Final Four by beating Stephen F. Austin 80-43 in a first-round game on Saturday night.
"I would not say tonight was a perfect game because I believe that I can always gets better," Pointer said after breaking a record held jointly by Suzie McConnell of Penn State and Melinda Schmucker of Texas Tech. "I am always hoping that the best is yet to come."
Tammy Sutton-Brown added a career-best 25 points as fourth-seeded Rutgers (23-7) advanced to the second round of the West Regional on Monday night against fifth-seeded Southwest Missouri State (26-5) and Jackie Stiles, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA women's basketball.
Stiles was knocked out of Southwest Missouri State's 89-71 win over Toledo in the opening game at the Rutgers Athletic Center when she ran into a screen with about 10 minutes to play.
Brian Mahaffey, a Southwest Missouri State team doctor, did not say whether Stiles suffered a concussion, but he said she would be fine.
The Lady Bears will need her with Rutgers suddenly back on track after coach C. Vivian Stringer put the team through a week of double practices to prepare for Stephen F. Austin (26-7).
"We played like it was our last 40 minutes," said Pointer, whose record-breaking assist came on a pass inside to Sutton-Brown in the closing seconds. "I'm a senior and we have to play like there is no tomorrow. We have to compete like we're dying. My career here could end in 40 minutes. I'm trying to extend it."
Karlita Washington added 19 points, and Pointer and Linda Miles had 12 apiece as the Scarlet Knights of the Big East Conference put on an awesome first-half performance in taking a 37-12 lead.
Rutgers hit 17 of 26 shots in the second half in building its lead to 40 points. The Scarlet Knights finished 33 of 57 from the floor, or roughly 58 percent.
"We had what I thought was a good game plan," Stephen F. Austin coach Royce Chadwick said. "We were going to let Miles shoot and keep Sutton-Brown from touching it and try to control Pointer, and we couldn't control Pointer. She was the difference in the game."
Latisha Prater led Stephen F. Austin with 10 points. The Ladyjacks' starting lineup combined for 24 points.
The Ladyjacks entered with the nation's second-best scoring defense at 54.4 points a game, but Rutgers, which was seventh at 56.8, showed them a few things.
Rutgers, which was beaten by Tennessee in the national semifinals last season, never trailed after Miles and Davalyn Cunningham scored four points apiece in a game-opening run of 10-0.
Stephen F. Austin, appearing in its 14th straight NCAA tournament, closed to 10-7 before Sutton-Brown scored eight points in a 14-point run that gave Rutgers breathing room it never lost.
"She was able to just overpower us in there," Chadwick said of Sutton-Brown, who hit 10 of 12 shots from the field. "When you stand our players beside their players, there is a difference in stature there and Sutton-Brown used that on us."
Rutgers is now 13-0 at home this season.