PISCATAWAY, NJ (January 6) -- In a game that was every bit as close as the final score indicated, the top-ranked University of Connecticut men's basketball team came out on top 75-74 over Rutgers in front of a sellout crowd at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, NJ. Ben Gordon poured in a game-high 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting and Emeka Okafor scored 21 points including the 1000th of his career and snared a game-high 16 boards to lead UConn to victory.
The Huskies win their ninth-straight game and run their record to 12-1 on the campaign and 1-0 in BIG EAST play. Rutgers slips to 7-4 overall, 0-2 in the loop.
The game included a remarkable 16 lead changes and six ties. UConn improved to 11-0 on the road as the top-ranked team and 11-3 in its last 15 BIG EAST openers.
Rutgers guard Calvin Wooten drained a three to open up the second half scoring and gave his team a 40-32 advantage at the 18:40 mark. Okafor answered with a pair of free-throws at 18:26 to pull the Huskies to within six. The free-throws marked Okafor's 999th and 1000th career points at UConn. Rutgers built the lead up to eight once again at 16:40, but UConn responded with a 15-5 run capped off by an Okafor turnaround at 13:35 to take a 51-49 advantage.
Neither team could take control of the game until Gordon ran-off seven consecutive points to spark a 11-3 Husky run as UConn seized its largest lead of the game, 72-66 with 2:20 to go. However, Connecticut left the door open for Rutgers as the Huskies could not put the game away from the foul line and the Scarlet Knights rallied to pull to within one with eight seconds remaining. But a savvy UConn play ended the game as the Huskies broke the Rutgers full-court press and advanced the ball into their frontcourt without allowing the Scarlet Knights to give a foul and time expired.
Gordon added clutch free-throw shooting on a night in which his teammates were off from the charity-stripe. Gordon finished 6-for-7 from the line while the rest of the Huskies were a combined 7-for-20. Reigning BIG EAST Rookie of the Week Charlie Villanueva had another standout performance, dropping in 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
UConn out-worked the Scarlet Knights on the glass, holding a 53-to-40 advantage including a 36-to-20 edge on the defensive glass. The skewed rebounding numbers translated into a 46-to-22 UConn advantage in points in the paint. The Husky defense was solid once again, as UConn held Rutgers to just 32% shooting from the field.
Connecticut stormed out of the gate early, hitting its first four shots and allowing Rutgers to make just one of its first ten attempts from the field en route to seizing an 8-2 lead 2:50 into the contest. However, Rutgers mounted a 7-0 run over the next minute after making four consecutive shots including two from deep. The two sides went blow for blow as the lead changed hands nine times over the next 8:20. A Juel Wiggan three as the first half expired gave the Scarlet Knights their largest lead of the half, 37-32.
The Huskies are back in action Sunday, January 11 when they take on No. 8 Oklahoma at Gampel Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised nationally by CBS.