Feb. 14, 2009
HARTFORD Conn. (February 3, 2009) - The No. 1/1 University of Connecticut women's basketball team improved to 22-0 on the season, its best start since 2002-03 when it opened a perfect 31-0, as the Huskies defeated BIG EAST opponent Rutgers 75-56 on Tuesday night at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
With tonight's victory, the Huskies improve to 8-0 in the BIG EAST, while Rutgers falls to 4-5 in the conference and drops to 12-8 on the year. This was the 23rd all-time victory over the Scarlet Knights as the Huskies move to 23-6, winning four of the last six battles between the two programs.
UConn used a 14-4 run to open the second half to stretch their six-point halftime lead to 16 in the frame's opening 3:52. Freshman Tiffany Hayes (Lakeland, Fla.) led the Huskies in their run, hitting back-to-back three-pointers in that time span.
Rutgers took their only lead of the night just under a minute into the game with a 5-3 edge before Hayes knocked down a three-pointer to give the Huskies a one point lead 1:11 into the contest. Hayes' three-pointer sparked a 12-3 UConn run to extend their lead to 15-8 but missed offensive opportunities troubled the Huskies early on as they hit five of 12 shots from the floor in the opening six minutes.
Renee Montgomery (St. Albans, W. Va.) gave the Huskies a 22-11 lead mid-way through the frame as she netted seven points on three consecutive shots. But Rutgers' Kia Vaughan answered back immediately, scoring six of her eight first half points in a one minute span to cut the UConn lead to five with 8:45 on the clock.
Rutgers was able to tie the score at 22 with 6:09 left in the half but Montgomery again put the team on her back as she scored 11 points and dished out two assists in the first half. Meghan Gardler (Springfield, Pa.) came off the bench for the Huskies, contributing some key numbers in six minutes played in the first half with two rebounds, two steals and one assist as UConn took a 34-28 lead heading into the break.
The Huskies shot .316 (12-of-38) in the first frame, their lowest shooting percentage in a half this season. Their 34 points in the first half tied its lowest first-half point total of the season as they posted that number in the Georgia Tech and Penn State contests.
Rutgers was kept to a .440 (11-of-25) showing from the floor in the half and was limited to just three players with points on the board.
UConn started the second half with the 14-4 run to make the score 48-32 to pull away from the Scarlet Knights and cruise to the 19-point victory. The Huskies largest lead of the night came with 10:29 left in the game when Maya Moore (Lawrenceville, Ga.) connected on a layup to put UConn up by 20 at 57-37.
UConn came out in the second half with an improved shooting performance, posting a .545 (12-of-22) shooting percentage in the second frame, including 3-three pointers. The Huskies finished the night shooting .400 (24-of-60) from the floor, while Rutgers shot .415 (22-of-53).
Gardler had a solid performance tonight for the Huskies, finishing with two rebounds, three assists and three steals in 14 minutes played.
Hayes, who earned BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors earlier this week, made her first career start tonight and picked up her 10th game in double-figures this season with 13 points.
Montgomery's one 3-point field goal moved her out of a tie with Sue Bird and Jen Rizzotti into fifth place on UConn's all-time with a current career tally of 208. Her 15 points marked her 20th game of the season in double-figures and the 93rd of her career. Her point tally tonight also moved her past Ann Strother (1,699 points) into seventh on UConn's all-time list with 1,705 points.
Moore led the Huskies with 24 points and 10 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season and the 22nd of her career. The sophomore shot 8-of-14 from the floor in 39 minutes played, while adding three assists and three steals. Kalana Greene (Saint Stephen, S.C.) recorded a season-high 17 points while adding seven rebounds.
The Scarlet Knights outrebounded UConn 38-33, becoming the first team to outrebound the Huskies this season. Prior to tonight's contest, the Huskies have only tied two other teams (LSU and DePaul) in the rebound category, both at 39 a piece and both at Gampel Pavilion.
After today's win, UConn has won its last 21 BIG EAST Conference home games, dating back to the February 7, 2006 loss to Rutgers (60-56). The Huskies are now also 93-11 all-time at the XL Center, including 17 straight victories.
The Huskies will return to action as they travel to Milwaukee, Wisc. to take on Marquette in BIG EAST Conference play on Saturday, Feb. 7. Tip is set for 8:00 p.m. (EST) on CPTV.
-UConn moves to 22-0 on the season, its best start since 2002-03 when it opened a perfect 31-0. The Huskies started the 2007-08 season 21-0 but fell to Rutgers 73-71 in their 22nd game, their only loss during the regular season.
-UConn leads the all-time series against Rutgers 23-6 and has won four of the last six against them.
-UConn has now won 123 of its last 131 games against BIG EAST opponents in the regular season.
-UConn extends its winning streak against non-ranked opponents to 106 consecutive games.
-The Huskies are 8-0 in BIG EAST play for the ninth time since 1994-95.
-Connecticut has won 35 consecutive regular-season home games-the longest active streak in the nation.
-UConn has won its last 21 BIG EAST Conference home games, dating back to a February 7, 2006 loss to Rutgers (60-56).
-The Huskies are 274-11 at home (Storrs & Hartford) since the 1993-94 season.
-The Huskies are 93-11 all-time at the XL Center, including 17 straight. Their last loss was to Rutgers 55-47 on March 6, 2007 in the BIG EAST Championship game.
-UConn is 241-3 in its last 244 games (dating back to Jan. 31, 1999) against opponents not ranked in the AP Top 25 and has won 105 straight games.
-The Huskies have won their last 222 games at home against unranked opponents.
-UConn is 71-18 in nationally televised contests since 2001-02, including 6-0 this season.
-UConn is 215-11 when playing as the AP Top 25 No. 1 team.
-UConn is 143-2 in its last 145 BIG EAST home games.
-UConn is 185-97 all-time in the month of February, and have won 15 of their last 16 played, including its last seven straight.
-Tonight's game marked Tiffany Hayes' first career start.
-Renee Montgomery's one 3-point field goals moved her out of a tie with Sue Bird and Jen Rizzotti (207 three-point field goals made) into fifth place on UConn's all-time list. Her current career total is 208 three-point field goals made.
-UConn went 4:44 without scoring a point in the first half.
-Renee Montgomery's 15 points marked her 20th game this season in double-figures and the 93rd of her career.
-An 11-0 run by Rutgers in the first half is the largest run allowed by UConn all season.
-UConn's 34 points in the first half ties its lowest first-half point total of the season (Georgia Tech and Penn State).
-UConn's .316 (12 for 38) field goal percentage in the first half marked the lowest in any half this season.
-Renee Montgomery's 15 points moved her past Ann Strother (1,699 points) into seventh on UConn's all-time list. Her current career total is 1,705 points.
-Kalana Greene's 17 points marked her ninth game this season with double-figures and the 39th of her career. The 17 points marked her season high.
-Tiffany Hayes' 13 points marked her 10th career game with double-figure points.
-UConn has made at least one 3-point field goal in 240 consecutive games.
-Maya Moore's 24 points marked her 22nd game this season with double-figures and the 58th time in 60 career games.
-Maya Moore's 24 points and 10 rebounds marked her 11th double-double of the season and the 22nd of her career.
-Maya Moore's 24 points moved her past Mel Thomas (1,098 points) and Meghan Pattyson (1,106 points) into 28th on UConn's all-time list. Her current total is 1,113 points.
-UConn was out-rebounded tonight by Rutgers 38-33 for the first time this season.
-Maya Moore's 24 points marked the ninth time this season she has scored 20-plus points and the 23rd of her career.
Head Coach Geno Auriemma
On the battle with Rutgers tonight:
"As I said going into the game, it's Connecticut-Rutgers. The game is going to be played like it's a BIG EAST final, no matter what their record is and no matter what our record is. It's not a surprise to me that the game was played the way it was played. I thought we came out in the second half and played great. I thought we did so many good things and we really played in a way that makes you proud that we could respond that way coming out of halftime. We kind of struggled in the first half after we got a lead and they're not an easy team to play against for that reason. They just don't let you force the tempo, you've got to force it and sometimes that makes you play a little quicker than you want to play."
On the stretch at the end of the first half in which UConn took back the lead:
"That's the thing that we're trying to make sure we do, that we do the little things. Just stay with it. Every one of these games is like an NCAA game. You're going to have to do some little things other than just stand there and shoot 3's. Not everyone is just going to stand in the zone and let you shoot them, so you have to figure out other ways to make things happen. I thought that Kalana (Greene) was great, and Renee (Montgomery) playing 39 minutes, was unbelievable, and finally, I think Maya (Moore) played the kind of game where she did more than try to get open on the 3 point line. So all of those things bode well for us down the road."
On the play of junior Meghan Gardler in the game:
"Meghan did today what she does every day in practice, it's just that nobody sees it. She does that every single day in practice. I guess when you're not tall enough, when you're not quick enough, not fast enough and athletic enough, you have to do all the little things that make you a good player, and Meghan did that. But again, that's not anything that she doesn't do every day in practice. The way Meghan plays the game is the way it used to be played in the old days. When you have four scorers out there and you put her out there, she's a great compliment at times to what everybody else is doing. She made a couple of great passes today. It's what she does."
Sophomore Maya Moore
On Meghan Gardler:
"Meghan Gardler is the player of this game. I think when we have confidence and we know she is going to be in there battling, it gives our team confidence on the offensive end. She made some good passes on offense. She passed the ball and took care of it. That's what she has to do. That's what she's good at and hopefully she can continue to bring that for us."
What did the team do better in the second half?
"It's just a matter of focus. Renee [Montgomery] was just saying at halftime how we just have to be focused and not make the same mistakes twice when it comes to defending them. Sometimes when you play teams you just have to grind it out. You have to battle. You're not gonna be up 20 in two minutes. It was back and forth there for a minute and we just kind of took it away. That's what you have to do. You have to be patient. You can't get anxious or frustrated. Get stops and rebounds and go on the other end."
Senior Renee Montgomery
On Tina Charles:
"She had a tough day. Coach has really been emphasizing making layups and I think she missed a few in the beginning. Coach just wasn't happy.
Do you think Tina might have lost confidence as the game went on?
"Yeah, I think also when you're sitting on the bench a lot you're thinking too much about why you're sitting on the bench and what you did wrong. She came back in and it was just hard for her to get a flow and that's pretty much it."
Senior Meghan Gardler
What were you hoping to get done when you came in?
"I was trying to get a spark off the bench because the post players were not producing a lot . I knew that I wasn't going to score but I just wanted to get the offense going and people moving. I had a good perspective of what we had to do from the bench."
What was your reaction to starting the second half?
"I just tried to keep a cool head and I told myself that I just had to do what I did in the first half."
How did it feel to have a reaction from the crowd when you came out of the game?
"It is great to have fan support, it gives you a sense that you got done what you needed to do."
How physical was it?
"It was extremely. I have a couple bumps and bruises. It is just dealing with bigger girls especially when you are small and not as strong so you have to do whatever you can."
Do you mind a physical game?
"Not at all, that is what I practice for. I battle Kaili McLaren and Tina Charles and they are huge too so every practice I keep that in mind."
Coach said he wanted someone to step up when Caroline Doty went down, did you take it personally and want to be one of the people to be counted on?
"Definitely, I think last season I could have done more by putting in extra time when Kalana Greene and Mel Thomas went down. So I did take it personal and I have been working on my jump shot. I did not get a chance to shoot tonight but that is fine because I will be prepared when I do."