March 4, 2012
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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - With the offense sputtering, the UConn Huskies put forth one of their best defensive efforts of the season.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 15 of her 17 points in the first half and fourth-ranked Connecticut beat No. 23 Rutgers 49-34 on Sunday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
"For 40 minutes we guarded them exactly how we wanted to guard them," Auriemma said. "I tip my hat off to these guys because it takes a lot to concentrate that hard and play that hard on defense. I thought our rebounding was great. All and all it was a pretty gutty performance by our guys."
It was the Huskies' first victory since 2004 when they scored fewer than 50 points. The win gives the third-seeded team a rematch with second-seed St. John's in the semifinals Monday night. The Red Storm ended the Huskies' 99-game home winning streak on Feb. 18. UConn then lost to No. 3 Notre Dame last Monday night, marking the first time in 19 years the Huskies lost consecutive home games.
"You never want someone to come into your house and beat you the way they did," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "They just came in there and they played St. John's basketball and we didn't play Connecticut basketball. It's going to be different tomorrow. We're going to be a whole `nother team that St. John's is going to be playing"
With the victory, UConn avoided seeing two more of its streaks end. The Huskies still haven't lost consecutive games in 19 years. They also haven't been beaten three straight times at home since that same season.
UConn is looking to extend its streak of winning either the Big East regular season or tournament title for a 19th-straight year. The last time the Huskies were a 3 seed in 2005, they won the tournament.
Erica Wheeler scored 13 points to lead the Scarlet Knights (21-9).
Rutgers and Connecticut met in Storrs a month ago and the Huskies cruised to an easy 66-34 victory. The Scarlet Knights were missing starting point guard Khadijah Rushdan in that game due to a concussion.
With their senior leader back, they put up a much better fight.
"She brings a level of confidence to everyone that is out there," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "She makes all the difference in the world."
Trailing by 17 late in the first half, Rutgers went on a 13-4 run spanning halftime to pull to 34-26 on Wheeler's jumper with 12:52 left. Rushdan had four points during the spurt and finished the game with 10 points. The Scarlet Knights held UConn without a point for 7 1/2 minutes. Stefanie Dolson finally ended the drought with a putback.
After Rushdan took a hard spill, banging her head, she hit a jumper to make it 36-28. She didn't leave the game, but was being evaluated after the game by a team trainer.
That's as close as the Scarlet Knights would get as Bria Hartley and Tiffany Hayes hit back-to-back 3s to make it a 14-point game. Rutgers would get no closer than eight the rest of the game.
"We played an amazing game of defense, we communiated a lot on defense and helped each other with screens," Dolson said. "We did a great job doing that and really playing defense for the entire 30 seconds and finishing it with a rebound."
The Huskies, who lead the nation giving up just under 46 points a game and field goal defense, held the Scarlet Knights to 24 percent shooting. That helped offset a subpar offensive night by UConn, which shot just 33 percent from the field.
Mosqueda-Lewis helped the Huskies jump out to an early lead. The Big East conference's sixth-man of the year and freshman of the year had 15 points, hitting five 3-pointers in the span of 9 minutes. Her back-to-back 3s made it 28-13 with 3:16 left in the half.
The Huskies led 30-18 at the break as the freshman guard made five of her seven shots and the rest of the team was 4 for 18.