The Rutgers women picked a good time to play like the team that made it to the NCAA finals last season.
After knocking off then top ranked UConn at home last Tuesday, the Scarlet Knights have a chance to beat the No. 1 team for the second straight week when they take on Tennessee in Knoxville tonight in a rematch of last year's national championship game.
"I'm getting a little nervous. I'm not even going to think about beating [No. 1s] back-to-back," said Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. "I was excited when we played UConn, but when I came to practice the next day I did not say one word about it. The next focus was Tennessee."
If seventh-ranked Rutgers is to knock off another No. 1, it will need another stellar game from sophomore guard Epiphanny Prince, who scored a career-high 33 points in the win over UConn. "I don't think it was anything less than spectacular," Stringer said of Prince's performance.
Prince has always been a dynamic scorer -- she made national news in high school when she scored 113 points in a game -- but she's uncomfortable with the attention. She refuses to talk about the 113-point game and last week deflected attention about her performance in the UConn win. Instead, she praised her teammates during the press conference, as she sat texting UConn's Tina Charles -- a close friend from their days playing against each at New York City high schools -- under the press table, seeming uncomfortable with the spotlight.
Afterward, she brushed off congratulations from fans, friends and family, instead asking one Rutgers official where she was in the Big East standings for steals, saying she wants to be in first by season's end (currently she's in third). Then, she moved on to her next conquest: who would buy her dinner.
As much as she may shy in the spotlight, against Tennessee tonight, Rutgers needs everything from Prince -- scoring, leadership, tough defense and the same ability take over the game that brought the Huskies down.
"It wasn't like she was making easy shots," said UConn coach Geno Auriemma after last week's game. "They were tough shots. And I was kind of disappointed in our big guys, because we made her put the ball on the floor and go to the basket a couple of times. And they just, for whatever reason, we just didn't get the stop that we needed. We ended up putting her on the free-throw line instead."
Prince -- who averaged 42 points per game in high school -- hasn't always been the Knights' leading scorer, but over the last two years she has consistently come up with big plays.
"I hope she gets the confidence from [Tuesday]," said junior forward Kia Vaughn. "That's the player I should see every game."