Win results in rematch with Connecticut
HARTFORD, Conn. — With a second win over ranked Marquette this season, the Rutgers women's basketball team (19-11, 11-5) advanced to the semifinals tonight with the daunting task of facing Connecticut, which stands in the way of its first Big East Championship game since 2007.
The top-ranked Huskies (30-1, 16-0) beat Georgetown immediately following the Scarlet Knights' win and have not lost a conference game since 2008, when the Knights took them down at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
"What does it take? I don't know," said Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer. "I'll figure that out now. That we were the last team to beat UConn doesn't really mean a lot other then we have to bring our ‘A' game all the time physically and mentally with all we do. I have to be on my ‘A' game, as well, because Geno [Auriemma] is an outstanding coach."
The last time the two squared off, the Knights kept the game close for the first half at the RAC before the Huskies turned it on and prevailed, 63-44.
"They're the No. 1 team in the country for a reason," said junior forward April Sykes, who scored 18 points yesterday on 5-for-11 shooting. "They do a lot of great things, but we can't focus on anyone but ourselves."
For the Huskies, two-time National Player of the Year Maya Moore put up her worst offensive numbers of the season but they still cleanly took down the Hoyas, 59-43. Moore scored just six points but center Stefanie Dolson picked up the slack with a career-high 24 points.
"They're a physical team who likes to slow it down," Moore said of tonight's contest against the Knights. "I think at times when we play them at their place, we struggled with our offense getting in a good rhythm. That will probably be something we have to focus on and make sure we establish a tempo."
Junior guard Khadijah Rushdan was ineffective in the scoring category yesterday, scoring just five points and shooting 22 percent. But she did fill up the stat sheet and play a key role in her 38 minutes of action.
Rushdan led Rutgers with 10 of the team's 42 rebounds, eight of its 13 assists and three of its nine steals.
By taking down Marquette yesterday, the Knights are up to five consecutive Big East wins — the best for the program since the 2008-09 season, when it had streaks of both seven and five straight.
The win likely boosts Rutgers from a projected No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament to somewhere between a six-seed and nine-seed depending on tonight's performance against UConn.
Former Rutgers standout Heather Zurich made the trip to Hartford yesterday to support some of her former teammates in action.
Zurich, who sat directly behind the team's bench, was a key cog in the Knights' Big East Championship in the 2006-07 season and subsequent run to the NCAA championship game.
The latest bracketology projections on ESPN have the Knights as a No. 10 seed playing in Cincinnati for the first two rounds and Dayton, Ohio for the Sweet 16.
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