UConn masterpiece painted by numbers
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Earlier this season, Purdue coach Sharon Versyp marveled that Connecticut's defense was still the topic du jour after Geno Auriemma's team hung triple-digits on her team in a blowout victory on the Boilermakers' home court.
On Monday, the top-ranked Huskies put on an offensive clinic despite finishing nearly 17 points below their season scoring average in a 66-46 victory over fourth-ranked Rutgers.Sometimes a team's weakest link in a game is what makes the strongest statement. At their best, any number of Connecticut players can turn a basketball court into their own personal canvas. That's what you get with a roster of high school All-Americans. Tina Charles finished with 17 rebounds against Rutgers, and it wasn't her best performance of the season on the glass -- it wasn't even her best performance on the glass against a top-five team, that was a 19-rebound effort against North Carolina. Maya Moore controlled the game for possessions at a time, broke the school's freshman scoring record (previously held by Svetlana Abrosimova) and wasn't even the leading scorer on the night for the Huskies. Renee Montgomery led the team in scoring with 21 points and still merits only the bronze medal in this catalog of accomplishments. But to avenge their only loss of the season and earn the outright Big East regular-season title -- the 13th time in 15 years they've earned at least a share -- the Huskies had to come together in an effort that more closely resembled painting by numbers on the deck of a ship caught in high seas than individual masters guiding brushes over a masterpiece. "It's a fun type of basketball to play," Auriemma said. "I don't know if you could do that all year and be ready for the NCAA Tournament. A game like this, it's not going to be run up and down and score 90. You're going to have to grind out every possession." It was almost fitting, although Auriemma was unlikely to appreciate the poetic irony, that Connecticut fared the worst when singled out for trips to the free-throw line. During a rather slow performance of the national anthem, a lone vendor stood between two sections of the stands behind the Rutgers bench, his plastic branch of pretzels held awkwardly at attention. It seemed a rather fitting tribute to a Scarlet Knights team that regularly leaves those who come near it on a basketball court feeling awkwardly alone. Coming into the game, Rutgers had limited its first 28 opponents to an average of 18 field goals per game. Of those field goals, only 56 percent came attached to an assist. Contrast that with Connecticut, the nation's second-most prolific scoring offense, which entered the game having averaged 32 field goals per game with assists on 65 percent of them. When the teams met in New Jersey four weeks ago, Rutgers got the best of things in style and scoreboard, even as the game became a second-half shootout. Connecticut managed 28 field goals in a 73-71 loss but recorded just 15 assists and struggled to maintain any kind of rhythm against nearly constant pressure.
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