No. 3 UConn 65, Rutgers 45

Geno Auriemma wasn’t a huge fan of having to play Rutgers two

days before a showdown with top-ranked Baylor.

He knows that it will help his team in the end as the setup is

similar to what his third-ranked Huskies will see in the NCAA

tournament.

”The Big East thinks we’re Superman. We can play at Rutgers

Saturday, then have to play Baylor on Monday because we’re better

than everyone else, we can handle that,” Auriemma said. ”That’s

what happens in the NCAA tournament. You play a tough game on a

Saturday or Sunday and then play another one two days later.

They’ve helped us over the years and they’ll help us this

year.”

Morgan Tuck scored 15 points and Stefanie Dolson added 14 to

help Connecticut beat Rutgers 65-45 on Saturday, denying coach C.

Vivian Stringer of her 900th victory.

Stringer won No. 899 last Saturday against Cincinnati and has

lost her first two attempts to become the fourth women’s basketball

coach to reach the milestone. The Hall of Fame coach was looking to

join Pat Summitt, Jody Conradt and Sylvia Hatchell, who reached the

mark last week.

”I’ll be glad to get it over with,” Stringer said. ”I can’t

begin to share with you the stress that it is – not in a negative

way. We’re trying to fight hard to see how we can live and survive

in the Big East to do that. I haven’t even talked to the team about

the pressure of that. Even when my sister talks to me I don’t want

to talk about it.”

Stringer’s next try will be Tuesday at No. 23 Syracuse.

”I appreciate the historical perspective. I do know its

special,” Stringer said. ”Unfortunately it’s coming at a time

when we have so many young people and we’re struggling. I look at

this and I do feel encouraged. Nine hundred will come one of these

days.”

UConn (24-1, 11-1) has its own big game on Monday night with the

showdown against No. 1 Baylor.

It wasn’t long ago that Rutgers (14-10, 5-6) was a thorn in the

side of Connecticut, going 5-4 against the Huskies from 2005-08.

That’s not the case anymore as the Huskies have won the past 10

meetings.

The Scarlet Knights knocked off the Huskies to win the 2007 Big

East tournament. A 73-71 victory win the next season was Rutgers’

last against UConn.

For 10 minutes the Scarlet Knights took it right at the Huskies.

Rutgers led 14-4 nearly 5 1/2 minutes in as Auriemma pulled four of

his five starters, unhappy with their play as it looked as if the

Huskies were already looking ahead to the showdown with Baylor.

”We had a game plan going in and one of the things that we

wanted to make sure of we didn’t do,” Auriemma said. ”I thought

that all we did right those first four minutes was foul. I don’t

think we accomplished anything else, didn’t play offense or

defense.”

The Huskies trailed 18-12 midway through the first half before

Moriah Jefferson sparked them. She had two steals that ended up in

layups – the second resulting in a three-point play that gave UConn

a 22-18 advantage.

Rutgers got within 26-25 before UConn scored seven of the final

nine points of the half to lead 33-27.

UConn picked right up in the second half scoring the first seven

points to take a 40-27 lead and put the game away. Rutgers could

only get within nine the rest of the way.

Jefferson and Tuck gave the Huskies a lift, which is something

Auriemma knows will help them in the future being able to turn to

the bench.

”This goes a long way for both Moriah and Morgan going forward

knowing they can come in a game like this and contribute what they

contributed,” Auriemma said. ”You can go to the Final Four with

six players, probably go with just five if you’re lucky. If you can

change up the game with a couple people coming off the bench,

that’s what good teams do. We want to be a good team.”

Starting guard Bria Hartley played the first four minutes before

getting pulled. She never got back in the game.

”She wasn’t healthy at practice, wasn’t great at shoot

around,” Auriemma said. ”She gave it a shot and it didn’t work

out.”

Shakena Richardson scored 10 points to lead the Scarlet

Knights.

Rutgers, which is in danger of seeing its 10-year streak of NCAA

tournament appearances end, had put together two strong halves. The

Scarlet Knights rallied from an 18-point second half deficit

against DePaul on Tuesday before falling 60-57, and stuck with the

No. 3 team in the country for 20 minutes.

The Scarlet Knights just couldn’t sustain it. Rutgers was

missing senior forward Chelsey Lee, who is sidelined indefinitely

with a right knee injury. She missed last season with a shoulder

injury.

Rutgers, which has nine underclassmen on the roster, is having a

rare down year, and Stringer’s $1 million salary has come under

scrutiny. She made comments last week to a group of reporters

describing those critical of her as ”crazies” and said they need

to ”just back off”

Athletic director Tim Pernetti talked to a group of reporters at

the half and said that he called her after her remarks and opted to

keep the details of the conversation private from the media.

Stringer has one more year on her contract after this

season.

Rutgers honored former star Sue Wicks before the game. Wicks,

who starred for the Scarlet Knights from 1984-88 before going on to

play for the New York Liberty in the WNBA, will be inducted into

the women’s basketball Hall of Fame in June. Wicks’ jersey is

retired in the rafters and a banner commemorating her upcoming

induction into the Hall of Fame hung next to it.

This was also the Play4Kay game with UConn and Rutgers honoring

former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow, who passed away in 2009

after a long battle with cancer. The Scarlet Knights wore pink

uniforms while the Huskies wore pink socks and had the color

trimmed on their shorts.

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