Stringer Thinks Rutgers Can Get Back To Final Four

Scarlet Knights still confident even after 25 point loss to UConn in Big East semis.


Vivian Stringer and the Scarlet Knights open tournament play Saturday against Stephen F. Austin.

 

March 12, 2001

By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - The swagger that was so evident around Rutgers a year ago is missing.

Don't misinterpret that, coach C. Vivian Stringer says.

No. 11 Rutgers (22-7) is quite capable of going to the Final Four for the second straight year, Stringer said Monday in a telephone conference call.

"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," 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 work started Monday with Stringer putting the Scarlet Knights through two, three-hour practices at the Rutgers Athletic Center, which will be the site of first and second-round games.

No. 15 Southwest Missouri State (25-5) will play Toledo (25-5) in the opener at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday night. Rutgers will face Stephen F. Austin (26-6) 30 minutes after the completion of the opener.

Stringer admitted she knows little about any of the teams in the subregional, particularly Stephen F. Austin.

The Ladyjacks have won 12 of the last 14 Southland Conference regular-season titles and 13 of 14 conference tournaments. This will be the Ladyjacks 14th straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

Rutgers is going to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year. It reached the round of 16 three years ago, the round of eight two years ago and the Final Four last year, losing to Tennessee in the national semifinals.

"Last year, we were obviously more confident," said Stringer, who lost Shawnetta Stewart and Usha Gilmore from last year's team. "This is a very different group. We're more reserved, quieter. We have a lack of depth and consistency, especially around the perimeter spots."

Rutgers has shown flashes of being a very good team this season, but that's all.

"I would be more satisfied if we reached my level of expectation," Stringer added. "We had met it by last year."

The one area that hasn't changed is Rutgers' defense. Opponents are averaging 56.8 points against the Scarlet Knights' aggressive style which leaves many teams wondering if they are facing a man-to-man or a matchup zone.

Stringer insists Rutgers can take 10 points off any opponent's scoring average.

A senior dominated team, Rutgers is balanced on offense with center Tammy Sutton-Brown (11.8 points), and guards Tasha Pointer (11.4) and Karlita Washington (10.9) leading the way.

"I'm just anxious," Pointer said of the tournament. "My first two years I didn't know what to expect. I was just happy we made it to the tournament. But at the same time, I know what to expect. I'm ready to do this. We're ready to do this."