(19) Rutgers 55

(22-8, 12-4 Big East)

(2) Connecticut 47

(29-3, 16-0 Big East)

    7:00 PM ET, March 6, 2007

    1 2 T
    #19RUTG 29 2655
    #2CONN 26 2147

    Top Performers

    Rutgers: E. Carson 15 Pts, 8 Reb

    Connecticut: C. Houston 12 Pts, 7 Reb

    Rutgers hands UConn first conference loss of season, clinches title

    Associated Press

    HARTFORD, Conn. -- Rutgers has been gaining on Connecticut in the race for Big East supremacy for the last three seasons.

    The Scarlet Knights drew another step closer Tuesday night.

    Hays: UConn falls short again
     Graham Hays
    After watching Rutgers break down UConn's offense to win the Big East crown Tuesday, it's obvious the Scarlet Knight have bought their coach's defense-first mentality -- and that UConn still has something to prove in big games, writes Graham Hays. Story
    • Lieberman: Loss won't hurt

    Beaten twice during the regular season by UConn, Rutgers upset the Huskies 55-47 in the championship game of the Big East tournament. It was the first loss for the Huskies in conference play this season -- and the first Big East tournament title for Rutgers after four losses in the final game, including three to UConn.

    "It feels good to beat UConn, because we have so much respect for them," C. Vivian Stringer said. "It's not especially UConn, it's to beat anyone who has demonstrated excellence, and they have been excellent."

    Essence Carson scored 15 points for No. 19 Rutgers, which held second-ranked Connecticut to one basket over the final 7:56.

    "It just seem to me that the third one was the charm with us," Carson said. "We had to learn the first time. We had to learn it the second time. And we had to take all those lessons that we learned and put it together, and we finally solved the puzzle at the most important time and that was now and that was today."

    The Scarlet Knights (22-8) won the Big East regular-season title the past two season only to watch the Huskies win the tournament title.

    "This is so special," Stringer said. "It was the first time that I cut down the nets. I'm so proud of this team."

    Rutgers had lost the tournament championship to the Huskies in 1998, 2000, and 2005. Rutgers also lost to Boston College in the 2004 championship game.

    The Huskies (29-3) finished the regular season with a perfect conference record for the sixth time in school history, and they routed Rutgers 70-44 on Feb. 26.

    Tuesday night was a much different story.

    "It was tremendous focus," Carson said. "We understood the things that we did wrong."

    With Connecticut leading 45-42 on Charde Houston's layup with 7:56 left in the second half, Rutgers turned up its defense, going on a 11-0 run over the next 7:30 to take a 53-45 lead on Carson's free throws with 31.4 seconds left.

    Connecticut finally ended its drought on a layup by Charde Houston with 18.9 seconds left, but it was too late.

    "The last eight minutes, we just didn't do anything to help us win," Houston said.

    The Huskies were trying for their third straight tournament championship. They have won 13 of the 25 Big East tournament titles.

    "As bad as we played we were in position to win the game," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "There were a couple key plays the last couple minutes that ended up being the deciding factor."

    Houston led Connecticut with 12 points.

    Tina Charles, who was scoreless in the first half and only played 10 minutes because of foul trouble, was a force in the second half for UConn.

    With Connecticut trailing 31-26, Charles scored eight points and had two assists during a 17-7 spurt that gave the Huskies a 43-38 lead.

    But that was all Connecticut could muster offensively as the Huskies shot 34 percent from the field (20-for-58).

    Connecticut is all-but assured a top-seed in the NCAA tournament that starts next weekend. The Huskies will play their first two games at the Hartford Civic Center.

    Rutgers has played extremely well lately, winning 12 of its last 14 games. Both the losses came to Connecticut.

    "To finally win it and win it here is the most rewarding," Auriemma said of Rutgers. "I think it's going to be a great bus ride home for them."

    Matee Ajavon, who averaged 20.5 points in the first two games of the tournament, struggled from the field going 4-for-22 from the field. She finished with 11 points and was named tournament MVP.

    Trailing by three with 3:26 left in the first half, Rutgers closed with a 6-0 run to take a 29-26 advantage into the break. Connecticut, trailing at the half for only the fourth time this season, was able to stay in the game by dominating the boards.

    The Huskies held a 27-14 advantage on the glass in the first half that led to half their points.

    Top-seeded Connecticut defeated South Florida and Louisville en route to the championship game.

    Second-seeded Rutgers beat DePaul and Marquette to get to the finals.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 55 47
    FG Made-Attempted 20-60 (.333) 20-59 (.339)
    3P Made-Attempted 2-14 (.143) 3-14 (.214)
    FT Made-Attempted 13-16 (.813) 4-4 (1.000)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 10 (0/0) 15 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 8 6

    Game Leaders

    PointsE. Carson 15C. Houston 12
    ReboundsE. Carson 8K. Greene 10

    2006-07 Season

    Feb 6, 2007 @CONN 60, RUTG 50Recap | Box Score
    Feb 26, 2007 CONN 70, @RUTG 44Recap | Box Score
    » Mar 6, 2007 RUTG 55, @CONN 47Recap | Box Score