Dec. 4, 2005
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Cappie Pondexter scored 22 points and No. 6 Rutgers held off Iowa 57-51 to win the Hawkeye Challenge tournament Sunday.
The victory also capped an emotional weekend for Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer, who coached against her old team for the first time since leaving Iowa City to take the Scarlet Knights’ job.
Stringer spent 12 years at Iowa, building the program into a national powerhouse, before leaving largely for personal reasons in 1995.
Pondexter, who scored 26 points in the tournament’s opening round, was voted MVP. But Rutgers (5-0) also relied on its size and strength inside to wear down the Hawkeyes inside and cut short each rally.
Seven of Pondexter’s points came at key moments late in the game.
After Iowa (4-3) pulled to 46-44 on a short jumper by Krista VandeVenter, Pondexter answered with a long 3-pointer.
In the final minute with Rutgers leading by four, Pondexter milked the clock on all alone on the perimeter before driving an Iowa defender into the paint and swishing a short jumper.
Five times Iowa crept within two points in the second half, only to see Rutgers, which never trailed in the game, respond and stretch their lead by controlling the boards.
Led by Mariota Theodoris’ 16 rebounds, Rutgers outrebounded Iowa 40-31, including 17-8 on the offensive end, outscored Iowa 28-16 on points in the paint and blocked six shots.
Rutgers shot 38 percent and just 53 percent from the free throw line.
Cyrstal Smith led the Hawkeyes with 17 points. VandeVenter topped her season best with 15 points and had six rebounds. The Hawkeyes shot 38 percent from the floor and 79 percent from the free throw line.
After being hired away from Cheney State in 1983, Stringer led the Hawkeyes to six Big Ten titles, nine straight NCAA appearances and a final four in 1993. Her 269 career victories are a school best.
Stringer was cheered loudly as she strolled out of the locker room and along the sidelines, shaking hands with friends and university officials, during warmups and pregame introductions.
Rutgers led by as many as 13 in the first half. A putback by Sammeika Thrash at the 7:27 mark capped an 11-2 run. Pondexter, who had 13 first-half points, scored five points during that stretch.
But the Hawkeyes, who have won 16 of 19 tournaments, crept back into it at the end of the first half. After Thrash’s basket, Crystal Smith answered with a 16-footer to spark a 13-5 run that made the score 29-23 at the break.