PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Finishing with a perfect Big East record meant more than usual for Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and his team.
Renee Montgomery scored 21 points to help No. 3 Connecticut finish unbeaten in the conference for the sixth time in school history with a 70-44 victory over Rutgers (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today; No. 18 AP) on Monday night.
"The other five teams had preseason player of the years and All-America players on them. This one was special," Auriemma said.
The Huskies (27-2, 16-0 Big East) have won 13 straight games and finished with an undefeated conference record for the first time since 2002-03. It was Connecticut's first Big East title since the 2004 season. Rutgers had won the last two regular-season conference championships.
"It means so much to us," said Charde Houston, who had 11 points and nine rebounds for Connecticut. "We came together as a team."
The Scarlet Knights (19-8, 12-4) had won five straight games and nine of their last 10 with the loss coming against UConn.
"Connecticut played very well and there was nothing we could do about it," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said.
The Huskies had already clinched the top seed in the Big East tournament that will start Saturday in Hartford. Rutgers will be the No. 2 seed. Both schools have first-round byes and won't play until Sunday.
The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament will also be in Hartford.
Essence Carson scored 17 points to lead the Scarlet Knights. She had little help as no other Rutgers player scored in double figures. Leading scorer Epiphanny Prince finished with six points. She missed her first nine shots and hit her only basket with 3:30 remaining in the game and UConn up 19 points.
"Our guards were not ready," a disappointed Stringer said. "Connecticut was better prepared mentally. We played passive."
Rutgers shot 29.4 percent from the field in scoring its fewest points this season.
Stringer was upset that Rutgers settled for outside shots instead of trying to get the ball inside to Kia Vaughn, who only took four shots.
"We shot 17 3-pointers. They were going to double Kia when she got the ball. We didn't trust each other and went 1-on-1."
Mel Thomas added 16 points for Connecticut.
Even without much at stake in the game, the Rutgers Athletic Center was loud. The near-sellout crowd greeted Auriemma with a loud chorus of boos when he was introduced before the game.
"It makes the game more exciting," Houston said. "To hear them boo us and then boo our coach. It's great, that as [Renee] said, to stick it to them."
Auriemma had said a few weeks earlier that Rutgers fans were born miserable and stay miserable.
"They're ignorant," Auriemma said. "You go down there and they scream things that just make no sense whatsoever. You just can't believe some of the stuff that comes out of their mouths actually comes out of their mouths. And we've played in some tough places, believe me. I kind of get a kick out of it myself. When you look back on it, when I'm done coaching and I look back at some of the most hilarious things I've ever had to experience, it would be some of the fans at Rutgers."
Auriemma said after the game that his comments were not a ploy to inspire his team.
"They didn't need any other incentive or motivation. I'm here to have fun like everyone else."
Connecticut got off to a sluggish start and trailed 21-16 with 6:40 left in the first half. But the Huskies closed with a 15-0 run to take a 31-21 lead at the break.
Thomas had eight of her 13 first-half points during the spurt.
"Mel hit a couple of shots early in the game that got her into it," Auriemma said.
UConn scored the first four points of the second half before Heather Zurek's layup with 17:33 left ended Rutgers' drought.
The Scarlet Knights couldn't recover, getting no closer than 10 points the rest of the game.