7:00 PM ET, March 3, 2008
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The Connecticut Huskies were all smiles after winning their second straight Big East regular-season championship -- especially after beating their "new" rival to do it.Renee Montgomery scored 21 points and Maya Moore added 19 to help top-ranked Connecticut beat No. 4 Rutgers 66-46 on Monday night in front of a near-sellout crowd of 15,779."They've taken Tennessee's place," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "We have to hate somebody. As loving as we are as a program, there's got to be a little bit of dislike between two teams and for Rutgers, we're it and for us, they're it."The Huskies lead the all-time series with Rutgers 21-6, but the Scarlet Knights have won four of the last seven meetings.Tina Charles added 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Huskies, who won their second straight Big East championship and 13th in the last 15 seasons."I feel this one more for the players," Auriemma said. "It's something I really wanted them to have. They proved last year they were the undisputed best team in the league during the regular season, and I think, coming back except for that one hiccup down there, I think that we proved it again. So for them not to get it tonight, would have been a shame."With the victory Connecticut (29-1, 15-1) earned the top seed in the conference tournament that starts Saturday. Rutgers (24-5, 14-2) will be the No. 2 seed. Both teams have first-round byes and don't play until the quarterfinals on Sunday.With Connecticut leading by two points early in the second half, Charles took over. She scored six points during a 10-2 run that extended the lead to 44-34 with 10:49 left. It was Charles' 14th double-double of the season."I saw a look in her eyes and that stretch was something different," Auriemma said.Rutgers cut the deficit to six on Matee Ajavon's free throws, but Montgomery answered with a 3-pointer to start a 22-8 spurt to close the game. Montgomery scored 12 points during the run."Big time shots made by an All-American player," Auriemma said. "No disrespect to the Rutgers players but she was the best guard on the floor tonight."The Huskies got a scare when Moore went down when she was fouled hard by Epiphanny Prince. Moore got up and went to the sideline stretching her back. With the Huskies enjoying a big lead, she did not return to the game."I actually asked Epiphanny, 'You didn't do that on purpose, did you?' And she said no," Montgomery said. "I can't be mad at someone who is just playing hard."Essence Carson led Rutgers with 15 points.Prince, who scored a career-high 33 points in the first meeting between the teams, was held to five points. She was scoreless in the first half as the Huskies were constantly hounding her all over the court. She hit her first basket on a jumper 1½ minutes into the second half."I don't think they did anything differently to me," Prince said. " I just think that I was thinking too much about what was going on in the game, and I wasn't just playing."Moore broke the UConn freshman scoring record 4½ minutes into the game, hitting a pullup jumper. She passed Svetlana Abrosimova's mark of 538 points set in 1998. Moore has scored in double figures in all 30 games this season."Maya's in another category," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "There was nothing we could do, she's just a great player."Moore got into early foul trouble in the first meeting that saw Rutgers hand Connecticut its only loss of the season on Feb. 5. The Scarlet Knights rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to beat the Huskies 73-71.She had no such trouble on Monday night. Moore scored eight of Connecticut's first 10 points and started 5-for-6 from the field. Leading by four midway through the first half, the Huskies used an 11-4 run to take a 28-17 with four minutes left."You look at her game tonight and the one last time and they are totally different," Auriemma said.Rutgers scored the next six points to close to 28-23 at halftime. UConn could have had a much bigger lead, but the Huskies were just 2-for-9 from the free-throw line in the first half.With the victory, Auriemma became the 14th Division I women's coach to reach 650 victories.Connecticut, which has won 24 straight home games -- the longest streak in the nation -- barely avoided an upset on Saturday, rallying from a 17-point second-half deficit to beat DePaul 77-76.
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||20-57 (.351)||26-56 (.464)|
|3P Made-Attempted||2-14 (.143)||7-15 (.467)|
|FT Made-Attempted||4-9 (.444)||7-17 (.412)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||10 (0/0)|