FIRST HALF RECAP: Huskies up 51-31
It was a rough and tumble start to the action as former Big East rivals Rutgers and Connecticut met at Gampel Pavilion in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.
Early on, Breanna Stewart knocked heads with a Ariel Butts and was down for a solid six-count, per John Altavila of the Courant. Butts and teammate Kaleah Cooper have two fouls each while guard Briyona Canty has three. Breanna Stewart committed her 2nd foul with 15:58 in the half, and sat for the entire remainder of the period.
Still UConn holds a 20-point lead going into the break behind strong efforts from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson. Moreover, the Huskies are dominating the rebounding battle, 30-14.
Tuck stuffed the stat sheet in the first half with an astounding 12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists after 20 minutes. KML is 4-8 from three-point land and leads all scorers with 16 points to go with her 4 assists. The speedy Jefferson has 10 points and 3 assists, including two straight three-pointers after Rutgers had pulled to within five-- it was as close as the Scarlet Knights would get in the first half.
UConn is 20 minutes away from their 22nd straight Sweet 16, a streak which goes back to 1994. You may have heard that C. Vivian Stringer gets a 500k bonus if she wins today, but barring a massive outbreak of disease hitting the UConn locker room it looks like that ain't happening tonight.
LET'S GO HUSKIES!
Along the road to the Final Four, you always run into a familiar foe or two.
This will be the case for the UConn Huskies tonight with they face Rutgers at 9pm on ESPN2 in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament at Gampel Pavilion.
This is a rivalry that started 20 years ago when the Scarlet Knights joined the Big East. C. Vivian Stringer was hired and said she would build the jewel of the east in Piscataway, NJ.
Her teams challenged the Huskies throughout the years, and have beaten them several times in the past decade. Their last win was in 2008, but UConn has won 13 straight. The RAC was always a little shop of horrors for UConn, and Stringer's teams were known for their defense and toughness.
"We have had some great games against Rutgers in the past; we have had some blowouts against Rutgers in the past," Geno Auriemma said. "It's two good teams playing and it's the NCAA Tournament so you would expect that whoever you are playing on Monday night is going to come out with a sense of purpose."
Stringer, who has over 950 career wins and has taken three programs to the Final Four, had teams that were ranked in the top ten and won a couple of Big East championships. She brought Rutgers to two Final Fours.
Now these very familiar programs are facing each other for the second time in the NCAA Tournament.
"Defensively or offensively, we know that they are great, they are big and tall. They do all those great things but we have played them many times. Do we have the answer? No," Stringer said. "But are we in awe? Absolutely not."
The Scarlet Knights played UConn three times last season, with the Huskies prevailing each time. The third meeting was in the AAC Tournament semifinals last year, where UConn sprinted to a 50-19 halftime lead and won 83-57.
This is the first time Rutgers has been in the NCAA Tournament in a few years. They are coming off a 79-66 win against Seton Hall in the first round.
Last year Rutgers finished in fourth place in the American Athletic Conference and won the postseason Women's NIT. This year, their first year in the Big Ten, they finished with 12-6 conference record.
The Scarlet Knights are still the same opponent as in the past. They hold opponents to 60 points per game and 36% shooting from the field.
They are led by Kahleah Cooper (16.5 ppg), Tyler Scaife (14.8ppg) and Betnijah Laney (15.9 pgg and 10.9 rpg).
The Huskies are coming off an 89-33 first round win against St. Francis of Brooklyn. They shot over 70% from the field for the game. Morgan Tuck led all scorers with a career-high 26 points.
This is the final home game at Gampel for seniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes.
With a win, UConn would advance to make their 22nd straight Sweet 16 appearance. Tonight's winner will face No. 5 Texas in Albany, NY on Saturday.