DID THEY WIN OR LOSE?

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Where do you draw the line between Rutgers winning tonight's game at the Rutgers Athletic Center and the California Golden Bears losing it?

To start each half, the Bears started hot, jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the first and outscoring the Scarlet Knights 16-7 to open the second. Cal, who falls to 8-2 on the season, even started the second half shooting 8-for-10 from the field.

Rutgers went into the half up 30-20, and Cal came all the way back to take a lead after shooting 80 percent to start the second. The Bears showed fight, heart and determination. But that didn't make up for all the missed shots.

What started at 80 percent plummeted to 42.9 percent as the Bears finished the night making just four of their final 18 shots to lose the game 56-51 in front of 2,911 screaming Rutgers fans.

We all know about Rutgers' great defense, and it again showed tonight, but did their defense win this game? Well, it certainly wasn't the Knights' offense that did it.

New Jersey's State College shot under 40 percent for the game and only hit on 22 percent from long range, while launching up 19. They were led by senior Matee Ajavon, who finished the night with a game-high 15 points and six rebounds on 5-for-9 shooting as the only Knight with a decent percentage.

Center Kia Vaughn struggled again tonight, again suffering with a bout of sickness, although she did score six straight points at a critical time for the Knights and finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds.

"Kia should easily be shooting 75 percent from the field," said coach C. Vivian Stringer of her 6-foot-4 All-American candidate who incidentally is only shooting 41 percent.

Against the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year, junior Devanei Hampton, who was making just her second appearance of the season after tearing her ACL and having surgery to repair it, Vaughn should have been able to impose her will. And she did on the rebounding end, but didn't realize she could score the same way until late in the game.

Luckily for the No. 6 Scarlet Knights, who move to 7-2 on the season, that didn't matter, as their defense once again held their opponent under 40 percent for game.

Rutgers started their backups for the second consecutive game as punishment for their bad play in their loss to Duke. After Cal went on their opening run, the starters were put into the game, Rutgers got into rhythm and Cal's lead disappeared.

Cal should not feel too disappointed with the way they played tonight. Coach Joanne Boyle certainly wasn't after the game.

"There was any number of things we could have done better," Boyle said. "Press in the beginning that we kind fumbled with, free throws, play calling down the stretch and second-chance points. If you take any one of those things you are talking about a different game.

"Rutgers is a great team and if you don't capitalize they will take advantage and they did."

A healthy Hampton would have made a huge difference as well. The Bears were once again led by junior forward Ashley Walker, who sports a silky smooth post game and finished with 14 points and six boards, but Hampton just wasn't the same player.

"Dev hasn't had a practice yet," Boyle said of Hampton. "We gave her 12 minutes in the Princeton game. She's had about 60 minutes of practice coming into this game for the entire season. I can't be more excited about going into Pac-10 play with these three [Hampton, Alexis Gray-Lawson and Walker]."

Hampton said of her plight: "I'm mentally there, it's just that my knee isn't caught up with me. That's why I really need to get to practice where I can just focus on getting my knee back to where I am mentally."

Cal's other All-American candidate, point guard Gray-Lawson, finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists, but made just 3-of-9 from long range. One pleasant surprise for Cal was the play of sophomore 6-foot-5 center Rama N'diaye, who got the start for Hampton once again, and who finished with 12 points and nine boards but more impressively showed scary range from outside, knocking down not one, but two shots from just inside the three-point line.

Player Of The Game And Turning Point:
Rutgers' Kia Vaughn
Despite playing with a bout of sickness and eventhough she hasn't played near to her potential yet this season, and even with having an abysmal first half, the junior center did best when it mattered most for Rutgers.

After Cal went on their second-half run, Vaughn hit six big points and finished strong for the Scarlet Knights, scoring 13 and grabbing 15 rebounds. Cal is known for their ability to dominate the post and Vaughn just wouldn't let them impose their will.

Quote Of The Game:
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer on her team's health:
"A number of the guys are sick. They’ve had IV fluids, Kia had it for the last three hours today. Heather [Zurich] had it all day yesterday and the day before. We’ve all been sick. They can’t stay on the floor long enough to keep their energy."

This is an interesting quote because anyone who watches Rutgers play knows that energy and intensity are what fuels them. And if you didn't notice, it's not like the Knights haven't been winning. Going 7-2 after playing six Top 25 teams is no easy feat.

Up Next For Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights get the team that Cal beat last Saturday, venturing in-state to Princeton on Wednesday.

Up Next For Cal
The Bears head back to Berkeley for a meeting against Kansas after an 11-day idle period.

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