By Carl Adamec
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Now, Baylor.
The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team made things a little more interesting than it wanted to at the Rutgers Athletic Center Saturday. But at the end the No. 3 Huskies pulled out a win and can now look forward to their matchup with the top-ranked and defending national champion Bears.
Morgan Tuck came off the bench to score 15 points as UConn overcame an early 10-point deficit to defeat Rutgers 65-45 in a Big East game and deny Scarlet Knights’ coach C., Vivian Stringer her 900th career win.
UConn (24-1 overall, 11-1 Big East) will take a 12-game winning streak into its contest with Baylor (24-1), which routed TCU on Saturday. Game time Monday at the XL Center in Hartford is 9 p.m.
With Rutgers scheduled to leave for the Big Ten in 2014-15, the Huskies’ visit here Saturday may have been their last for a league game.
It was quite a journey.
With his team trailing 10-4 at the first television time out 4:26 in, UConn coach Geno Auriemma benched starters Caroline Doty, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and Kelly Faris (all but Stefanie Dolson) and replaced them with Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, Moriah Jefferson, and Kiah Stokes. Doty returned about three minutes later and Faris four minutes after that. Dolson then picked up her third foul. Mosqueda-Lewis came in with 5:29 left in the half.
Hartley never returned.
Rutgers led 14-4 before the Huskies got going. It was 18-12 when UConn scored 10 unanswered points to take its first lead. Doty hit a 3-pointer and Jefferson followed with a steal and layup. Stewart’s jumper put the Huskies ahead and Jefferson’s steal and ensuing three-point play made it 22-18.
Mosqueda-Lewis’ trey with 0:08 left gave UConn a 33-27 halftime lead.
The Huskies then took charge right for the start of the second half as two free throws by Dolson, a 3-pointer by Mosqueda-Lewis and a hoop by Dolson pushed the lead into double figures. Ahead 49-38, baskets by Jefferson and Dolson started an 8-0 run that iced it.
Dolson added 14 points and Mosqueda-Lewis 12 for UConn. Jefferson was also outstanding off the bench with 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Shakena Richardson had 10 points for the Scarlet Knights (14-10, 5-6).
Stringer was trying to become the fourth coach to win 900 and the first to reach the plateau on her home floor.
Tennessee’s Pat Summitt was the first to 900 with an 80-68 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2006. Texas’ Jody Conradt got her 900th and final win when the Longhorns topped Missouri 70-57 in the first round of the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City on March 6, 2007. North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell reached the milestone on Feb. 7 when the Tar Heels walloped hapless Boston College 80-52 at Conte Forum.
Stringer has already been denied in her first bid for 900 when DePaul defeated Rutgers 60-57 last Tuesday in Chicago. But of the three coaches that have 900 wins, only Summitt got it on her first try. Texas lost to Texas A&M 67-60 a week before Conradt got her milestone win while North Carolina was routed by Duke 84-63 in Hatchell’s first attempt Feb. 3 in Chapel Hill.
Rutgers will try again Tuesday at Syracuse.