March 9, 2004
Box Score |
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
AP Sports Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Boston College had the confidence of a champion in the Big East Conference tournament - even before beating powerhouse Connecticut to reach the title game.
It paid off.
The No. 23 Eagles cruised to their first league tournament title Tuesday night with a 75-57 victory over Rutgers, earning a berth in the NCAA tournament. On Monday, Boston College stunned third-ranked Connecticut.
"They believed before we left Chestnut Hill that we have the opportunity to be doing this tonight," coach Cathy Inglese said. "I can't be any more proud of their belief in themselves and how they played as a group."
Amber Jacobs had 22 points and Jessalyn Deveny added 20 for the Eagles. It was the first Big East final in 11 years that did not include Connecticut.
It also was a moment of great personal satisfaction for Inglese, who grew up in nearby Wallingford and played at Southern Connecticut State in New Haven.
"This is right up there," she said.
The Eagles (25-6), who shot a tournament-record 63 percent Monday night against the Huskies, also were on target against Rutgers. They made 58 percent against the Scarlet Knights on 26-of-45 shooting.
"Boston College is an outstanding team," said Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. "It certainly was no fluke that they beat Connecticut because they can come at you so many different ways,"
Fifth-seeded Boston College became the first Big East team to win the tournament after playing all four days. The Eagles also knocked off Syracuse and Miami en route to the title.
"It's an unbelievable experience," said Jacobs, who wore the championship net like a prized pendant after the game. "We've believed since day one. We had to fight through being a fifth seed and not getting a bye in the first round. We just persevered every game."
Cappie Pondexter led the seventh-seeded Scarlet Knights (21-11) with 27 points.
Rutgers limped into the championship game with just seven players after losing guard Dawn McCullouch to a knee injury in Monday's semifinal win over West Virginia. The Scarlet Knights were forced to dress two student managers to round out the lineup, but they didn't play.
Chelsea Newton, Rutgers' second-leading scorer, hasn't played since being hit in the head during a victory March 2 over Seton Hall. She's expected back before the postseason.
"Our heads are spinning just trying to get a feel for who's in and what we can do," Stringer said. "Even though we have seven players, we're one player away from doing exactly what we want to do."
Tournament MVP Deveny scored 15 points in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting to help the Eagles build a 41-24 lead. Boston College used an 11-2 run to pull away from an 8-8 tie.
Rutgers would get no closer than 11 points thereafter. Pondexter had eight points in a 16-5 run to close the deficit to 59-48 with 6:05 left. But the Eagles responded with a 15-0 run over the next three minutes.
The Eagles can't wait for the rest of the postseason.
"What we did here this weekend, it just gave us the utmost confidence in ourselves that we can do whatever we set our minds to do," Deveny said.