Stephen F. Austin-Rutgers Preview

March 15, 2001

GAME: No. 13 Stephen F. Austin (26-6) vs. No. 4 Rutgers (23-7)
REGIONAL: West, First Round.
TIME: Saturday, 8:35 p.m. EST
SITE: Brown Athletic Center, Piscataway, N.J.

Rutgers begins its quest to return to the Final Four for a second straight year as it plays host to Stephen F. Austin in the first round of the NCAA women's tournament in the East Region.

The fourth-seeded Scarlet Knights (23-7) were a second seed in the West Region last year, winning their first two games at home before flying across the country to defeat UAB and top-seeded Georgia in Portland, Oreg. Rutgers then lost to Tennessee.

While the seed may be two notches lower than last year, the Scarlet Knights do have the potential to return out West to Spokane, Washington, where the regionals are held this year. They defeated Notre Dame at home when the Fighting Irish were the top-ranked team in the country earlier this season.

"I don't think we're as bad as our 25-point loss to Connecticut and I don't think we're as good as our one-point win over Notre Dame," Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer said of games earlier this season against two of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. "We're somewhere in between. We've got a lot of things we've got to work on."

The Scarlet Knights are led by point guard Tasha Pointer, who led the team in rebounding (6.1), assists (8.0) and steals (2.2). She is the focal point of a defense that has surrendered just 56.8 points per game and holding opponents to 38.5 percent shooting from the field.

While Nacogdoches, Texas, barely has more than 34,000 people, 13th-seeded Stephen F. Austin (26-6) has become a regular in the NCAA women's tournament. The Southland Conference tournament champions are in the tournament for the 14th straight season and trying to spring a first-round upset for the second straight year.

The Ladyjacks upended Xavier in the first round before falling to sub-region host Louisiana State in round two.

Royce Chadwick's team is led by Latisha Prater, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds in Stephen F. Austin's 82-73 victory over Northwestern State in the Southland Conference tournament title game. It marked the 13th time in the last 14 years the Ladyjacks have won the Southland conference tournament.

"You have three seasons - preseason, the conference and then the playoffs," Chadwick said. "This is the playoffs and the pressure is on. But we're under pressure all year long, so we're used to it."

Stephen F. Austin has not reached the regional semifinals since 1996.

Stephen F. Austin - F Amy Collins (4.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg), C Tami Rater (7.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg), C Lashinda Winters (8.3 ppg, 3.7 apg), G Latisha Prater (8.6 ppg, 2.1 apg), G Natheshia Wright (11.5 ppg, 1.0 apg).
Rutgers - F Davalyn Cunningham (9.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg), F Linda Miles (5.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg), C Tammy Sutton-Brown (11.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), C Tasha Pointer (11.4 ppg, 8.0 apg), G Karlita Washington (10.9 ppg, 2.3 apg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Stephen F. Austin - Automatic bid, Southland Conference tournament champion. Rutgers - At-large bid, Big East Conference.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Stephen F. Austin - 10-15, 10 years. Rutgers - 17-12, 12 years.


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