PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Rutgers' rigid defense stopped another Big East opponent right from the opening tip last night. The 21st-ranked Scarlet Knights went on to an easy 69-34 women's basketball victory over Providence at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

"The difference between this team and other Rutgers teams - maybe even our Final Four team [in 2000] - is this one is conscious about being sharp at the beginning," coach C. Vivian Stringer said.

"Our Final Four team was powerful, but probably in a game like this when they realized they were going to win, they would get sloppy and I would get a real big headache."

The misery was all on the other side last night as Rutgers (18-7, 11-3 Big East) followed up its 62-32 blowout at Villanova on Saturday.

The Scarlet Knights moved quickly from a 2-2 tie to a 26-11 advantage midway through the first half and were never challenged by the Friars (13-14, 3-11) the rest of the way. It was Providence's lowest scoring total in two seasons.

"They came out and played; we came out and played scared, period," Friars coach Phil Seymour said. "They killed us on the boards [45-21]."

Junior guard Matee Ajavon led Rutgers a game-high 23 points. Epiphany Prince and Heather Zurich, the Scarlet Knights' newest scoring option, each added 10 points.

Chelsea Marandola was the only Providence player in double figures with 14 points.

Rutgers will play Saturday at Notre Dame and then host No. 3 on Monday.

Elsewhere

Connecticut 81, South Florida 67

- Tina Charles scored a career-high 34 points and grabbed 17 rebounds leading third-ranked Connecticut to its 11 consecutive victory, over South Florida in Tampa, Fla.

Charde Houston had 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Huskies (25-2, 14-0) clinched their first outright Big East regular-season title in three years and remained unbeaten through 14 league games for the sixth time in the program's history.

Seton Hall 63, No. 19 Marquette 58 - Ela Mukosiej scored 16 points and Monique Blake added 13 as Seton Hall rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 19 Marquette in South Orange, N.J.

Nicole Emery hit a three-pointer to cap an 11-0 Seton Hall run early in the second half that gave the Pirates (17-9, 8-6 Big East) a 35-34 lead with 15 minutes left.

Krystal Ellis scored 25 points for Marquette (22-5, 10-4), which shot 20 percent (7-for-35) from the field in the second half and 28 percent overall. Christina Quaye added 15 for the Golden Eagles.

The teams went back and forth in a game that featured seven ties and 18 lead changes until a nine-point Seton Hall run gave the Pirates a 54-45 lead with 4:30 remaining. Ellis brought Marquette back, scoring 10 straight points as the Golden Eagles closed to within 59-58 with 19 seconds to play.

Cincinnati 60, Villanova 50 - Stacie Witman had 12 points and Jackie Adamshick 11, but the Wildcats (7-20, 1-13) lost to the Bearcats (14-12, 5-9) in a Big East game in Cincinnati.

Bowling Green 89, Kent St. 66 - Reserve Amber Flynn scored 21 points to lead six Bowling Green players in double figures, and the No. 18 Falcons defeated Kent State in Kent, Ohio.

Bowling Green has won 18 straight games and stretched its school- and conference-record winning streak to 39 against Mid-American Conference teams.

Iowa State 64, Nebraska 53 - Megan Ronhovde, playing her final home game, scored eight of her 15 points during a game-turning run that carried Iowa State to victory over No. 25 Nebraska in Ames, Iowa.

Lyndsey Medders, also a senior, added 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Cyclones (20-7, 8-6 Big 12), who used an 18-2 run to win for the fourth time in five games and increased their chances of landing an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.

Louisville 91, St. John's 62 - Angel McCoughtry scored 21 points, 17 in the second half, and No. 23 Louisville beat St. John's in Louisville, Ky.

Louisville (23-5, 9-5 Big East) trailed 41-40 early in the second half, but outscored the Red Storm 30-12 to lead 71-52 with 7:56 remaining. McCoughtry had eight points during the run and Helen Johnson seven.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.