Rutgers falters after Sykes delivers first lead
Rutgers junior April Sykes got the fans on their feet for one of the loudest cheers of the season in the first minute of action last night against No. 2 Connecticut. Sykes stripped the ball from Husky freshman Bria Hartley at midcourt and put the Knights ahead, 2-0, with a transition layup.
Unfortunately for Rutgers, that was its largest lead of the night.
Connecticut traditionally draws the strongest crowd of the season for the Scarlet Knights because of the longstanding rivalry between Hall of Fame coaches Geno Auriemma and C. Vivian Stringer, but yesterday's game left the Louis Brown Athletic Center emptier than expected.
Whether it was the icy roads prior to tipoff or the heavy snow predicted to begin around halftime, the RAC lacked its usual Connecticut turnout. Rutgers announced a season-high 4,703 as a paid attendance, but the entire section behind the marching band remained empty, with both upper sections half-full and plenty of empty seats in the lower sections.
"This is a tough place to play in and … every year we come here it's [tough]," said UConn senior forward Maya Moore. "The first year I came here, we lost. It's tough to play here and I think we realized that and we kept our cool."
Sykes rolled her shoulder hard on the floor in the first half and played the rest of the game in pain, but put up her best performance against the Huskies in four career games.
The Starkville, Miss., native scored a game-high 20 points on eight of 16 shooting after averaging four points on 26 percent shooting clip against the Huskies going into the contest.
"April Sykes had a great game shooting the ball but I think we did a pretty good job on her of making her make some tough shots," said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma.
Freshman forward Briana Hutchen provided her most valuable minutes of the year during back-and-forth in the first half.
The 6-foot-1 forward that averages just 6.6 minutes per game played twice that in the first half alone, when she pulled in two rebounds and hit two shots, each of which tied the game.
The Huskies extended their winning streak to 58 games in the Big East with their last defeat coming at the RAC on Feb. 5, 2008, when the Knights took down the Huskies, 73-71, behind 33 points from Epiphanny Prince.
"We have got to work harder so we'll be pushing more," said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. "We should be confident that we can play with the best and we look to get better."
Jaymee Tucker scored her first career point as a Scarlet Knight in a big way. After joining the team as a walk-on Saturday, Tucker knocked down a free throw at the end of the game, putting herself in the Rutgers-Connecticut rivalry record books and keeping her team from losing by 20.