Scarlet Knights set up showdown with Big East rival Huskies

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- In a game where little was clicking offensively for Rutgers, Essence Carson carried the Scarlet Knights to another rematch with Connecticut -- though this time with a Final Four bid at stake.

Carson matched her career high with 25 points Sunday to help Rutgers beat George Washington 53-42, sending them to Tuesday's Greensboro Regional championship for a third meeting with their Big East rivals.

"Essence played extremely well," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "She probably realized that not too many people were on. In fact, nobody else was on."

Epiphanny Prince added 12 points for the second-seeded Scarlet Knights (27-6), who handed the Huskies their only loss in early February. Connecticut, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, avenged the 73-71 defeat by winning the rematch by 20 points earlier this month.

Despite the win, Stringer sounded exasperated with her team's wandering focus in a game that they led by 16 points early before letting the Colonials get back in it. It wasn't the type of performance she wanted to see heading into another matchup with UConn.

She took particular note of George Washington's 18 offensive rebounds that netted just 12 second-chance points.

"Fortunately for us, we have played Connecticut," she said. "We do know what's expected. Do you think they're not going to convert those? We already know. The stats don't lie. It was obvious to us that when [George Washington] were getting second and third opportunities ... those are conversions for Connecticut.

"You keep allowing teams to get enough offensive rebounds and sooner or later you're going to pay."

Rutgers is back in Greensboro for the second straight season and hopes to have this trip end just like the last: with a Final Four bid. Last year, Rutgers upset top-seeded Duke 53-52 in the regional semifinals and cruised past Arizona State 64-45 to earn the program's second trip to the national semifinals under Stringer.

But they struggled to put away the sixth-seeded Colonials (27-7), who had lost to Rutgers by 25 points in November.

"We understand that we didn't play our best basketball today," Carson said. "Even though we won, we have expectations for ourselves. If anyone doesn't have those expectations, they don't have the understanding of what it takes to play and win at a championship level."

Carson went 9-for-15 while pulling down seven rebounds for Rutgers, which shot 51 percent.

George Washington reached the third round by beating third-seeded California 55-53 on a last-second layup from Sarah-Jo Lawrence, but shot just 8-for-27 (30 percent) to trail by as many as 16 in the first half and 28-16 at the break. That lead ultimately held up, though the Colonials closed the gap to three and four points in the second half only to see Rutgers answer.

George Washington closed to within 33-30 on a jumper from Antelia Parrish with 14:15 left, but the Scarlet Knights came back with a 3-pointer from Brittany Ray followed by a bank shot from Carson and a transition layup from Prince to push the lead to 40-30.

Then, after GW closed to within four, Carson knocked down a jumper from the left wing, followed by another while drawing a foul on the next possession. She hit the free throw to make it 49-42 with 3:20 to play.

George Washington, which shot 32 percent for the game, didn't score again.

"It was a tough, physical, hard-nosed game just like we expected," George Washington coach Joe McKeown said. "When we got it down to four ... I thought we had chances, but it just didn't happen."

Jessica Adair scored 16 points to lead the Colonials, who fell to 1-3 in regional semifinal games in the tournament. George Washington hasn't won in the round of 16 since upsetting top-seeded North Carolina in 1997.