Connecticut runs away from Rutgers to advance to Sweet Sixteen
STORRS, Conn. – Connecticut continued their drive for a third consecutive national title with a victory over former Big East and American Athletic Conference foe Rutgers 91-55, before a crowd of 3,486 in Gampel Pavilion.
UConn will have to leave the state of Connecticut, where they are 49-4 in NCAA tournament games, for a two hour drive to Albany, New York, where they will play fifth-seeded Texas in the Sweet Sixteen.
Tonight, though, was the renewal of a storied rivalry from years gone by; Rutgers probably has given UConn coach Geno Auriemma more memories (good and bad), than any school that is not named Tennessee.
“We have had some great games against Rutgers in the past,and we have had some blowouts against Rutgers in the past,” reminisced Auriemma. ”It’s two good teams playing and it’s the NCAA Tournament.”
Rutgers’ legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer joked about the familiarity of playing the Huskies prior to the game.
“I knew where to go into the locker room and everything else,” said Stringer , “so we came up the road and we are going to play this great team, so what else is new?”
In the spirit of those early 2000s games, Rutgers came out extremely physical, with bodies flying around, including a hard collision between Rutgers’ Briyona Canty and UConn’s Breanna Stewart that left Stewart on the ground for a few minutes.
Still, despite getting only four minutes from a foul-plagued Stewart, the Huskies opened a 51-31 halftime lead, as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson combined for 6-of-11 three point attempts, and UConn dominated the boards (29-15).
The second half did not get any better for Rutgers as UConn continued their hot shooting and pressure defense, breaking the Rutgers press for repeated easy baskets.
By the time senior Mosqueda-Lewis left the Gampel Pavilion floor for the last time, she had 23 points and five three-pointers. Jefferson finished with 19 points. Morgan Tuck contributed seven points and seven assists along with 16 points, and freshman Gabby Williams had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Rutgers was led by Tyler Scaife with 16 points, but it took her 20 shots to get there. Senior Betnijah Laney capped her career with 11 points but was never able to really get in the flow of the game, as UConn’s defense and rebounding kept them in control.
“Today showed me a lot,” said Auriemma postgame. “The way we played without Stewie, that was a lot, I wasn’t sure we had it in us to be honest. Every day they surprise me. I don’t know how they do it, and they don’t even get excited about it, they just know.”
Stringer believes that the Huskies are headed toward Tampa and another Final Four.
“That was a great team, and I have nothing but admiration and respect for UConn,” Stringer said, “I wish them well and I’m sure they will be playing for the national championship.”
UConn advances to the Sweet Sixteen and a matchup with the Texas Longhorns on Saturday.