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Scarlet Knights close in on 2nd straight Big East title

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- With another Big East regular-season title in
sight, Rutgers is playing its best.

Cappie Pondexter had 20 points and Matee Ajavon added 18 to lead
Rutgers (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) to a 71-50 win over Marquette on Wednesday night.

Rutgers, which has won 22 straight Big East games and 10
straight overall, never trailed after the opening minutes.

"We definitely came ready to play tonight," Rutgers guard
Essence Carson said. "We were really focused on both ends. We were
really flowing. Everything was really together."

The Scarlet Knights (22-3, 14-0) play Saturday at Pittsburgh,
followed by a season-finale matchup at home against Connecticut on
Feb. 27.

Win out and the Scarlet Knights will have the title to
themselves for the second year in a row -- and the second time in
school history. Rutgers handed the Huskies their only conference
loss of the season, 60-56, on Feb. 7.

Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said the Scarlet Knights are
Final Four material.

"They are just so deep at every position," she said. "I have
watched a lot of basketball. I have watched the Dukes and North
Carolinas, LSU, you tell me. I have a pretty good argument."

Marquette (17-8 overall, 8-6 Big East) never got closer than 11
points in the second half and trailed by as many as 26 points after
a late 23-5 Rutgers run. The Golden Eagles travel to Connecticut
Saturday.

Rutgers outshot Marquette 51.9 percent to 34.5 percent and had
just seven turnovers. Marquette made 4-of-17 three-pointers.

"When you are playing the seventh-ranked team in the nation,
you are going to have to do something special to win," Mitchell
said. "At the end of the day, we didn't knock our shots down, and
they did. And a 10-point game turns into a 20-point game, and you
are fighting for your lives."

Ajavon added nine assists.

Pondexter scored 16 of her points in the second half. She
entered the game averaging 21.1 points per game but had scored just
22 in her last two contests combined, including a season-low nine
against Villanova Feb. 14.

"All-American players go from four points in the first half to
20," Mitchell said.

Carson added 12 points for Rutgers, which was happy for the
experience against a tough Marquette zone defense.

"This was a major step for us," Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer
said. "Even if we would have won by 10 points I would have been
happy because we attacked the zone the way we should."

Christina Quaye led Marquette with 14 points.

"We will never give up hope that one day we will be able to
compete on a consistent basis with the best teams in the nation,"
Mitchell said.

Rutgers took control early, jumping to a 15-5 lead behind seven
points from Ajavon. The Scarlet Knights led 33-24 at halftime.

Ajavon had 13 first-half points.

Rutgers' last conference loss came on Feb. 3, 2005, 57-44 at
Connecticut.