March 7, 2005
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
AP Sports Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. - Matee Ajavon had 16 points and five steals to help No. 9 Rutgers rally from 11 points down and beat Villanova 64-59 in the Big East tournament semifinals Monday night.
The top-seeded Scarlet Knights (25-5), who will play either Connecticut or Notre Dame on Tuesday night, won their 10th straight.
Cappie Pondexter had nine of her 15 points in 15-0 second-half run, sparked by the Scarlet Knights' trademark defense. Their scoring defense is 50.3 points, tops in the league and third best in the nation.
The Wildcats (19-11) built a 31-20 lead at the break on 7-of-12 3-point shooting, using all of the shot clock to get the shot they wanted.
The Scarlet Knights threw a fullcourt press at the Wildcats early in the second half to pick up the pace. Pondexter started the key run with a three-point play with 14:49 left. Over the next 4 minutes, Ajavon had two steals, the Scarlet Knights forced Villanova into four turnovers and Pondexter capped the run with a layup for a 43-39 lead.
Katia Levitsky's layup with 1:56 left got Villanova within 55-53, but Pondexter quickly countered with a pull-up jumper on Rutgers next possession. The Scarlet Knights shot 5-of-5 from the line to seal the win.
Rutgers scored 20 points off turnovers in the second half.
Jackie Adamschick hit all four of her 3-pointers to lead the Wildcats with 19 points. Levitsky finished with 14.
The Wildcats frustrated Rutgers in the first 20 minutes with their deliberate offense and coach Harry Perretta shouting out nearly every offensive play from sidelines.
Trailing 16-13 with under 9 minutes left, Villanova hit three straight from behind the arc. Levitsky made two 3s and after a jumper with 3:54 left, the Wildcats had a 24-18 lead. They closed out the period on a 7-2 run that included a 3-pointer by Jackie Adamschick, her third of the half.
The Scarlet Knights played much of the first half without Ajavon because of foul trouble. She scored the first eight points of the half, but picked up her second foul with 10 minutes left.