A Case For The Defense

STORRS, Conn. - It is becoming glaringly obvious that this Connecticut team thrives on defense. From the perspective of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Saturday night, that would be painfully obvious.

The third-ranked Huskies held another clinic at Gampel Pavilion, holding No. 13 Rutgers to a season-low point total in a 66-34 victory that was UConn's 98th straight win at home. And it completed an impressive week that started out with the Huskies holding No. 5 Duke to 45 points.

How bad was it for the Scarlet Knights? Rutgers finished with 13 baskets but had 21 turnovers and 19 fouls. The Huskies lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents to 45 points per game. This was an even greater effort by UConn (21-2, 9-1 Big East).

"I don't think you can have anywhere near the success that we've had without being able to play the kind of defense we play," coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think defense and success go hand-in-hand. You have to be a good defensive team every year. And we might not get the credit that some other team's get, because we don't talk about it or have any fancy names for our defense."

With the win on Saturday night, UConn has now won eight straight games against Big East rival Rutgers (17-6, 6-4). In what once was the most intense and physical Big East rivalry of all time, UConn has recently reigned supreme. The Huskies have not lost to Rutgers since Feb. 5, 2008, and now hold a 28-6 lead in the series.

The Huskies were led by Stefanie Dolson, who scored 16 points. Tiffany Hayes had 14 points and seven assists.

"We had a couple games where coach wasn't pleased with our defense, so I think we've been definitely stepping up our defense just to prove to him and everyone else that our defense is the best in the country," Dolson said.

Freshman star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis came up big in the first half for the Huskies hitting three straight three-pointers that came in the midst of a 17-0 run that put the game out of reach. Lewis went on to finish with 11 points.

"It felt good to actually hit some; it's been a while for me," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I was open and they left me open a couple of times and the guards did a good job of penetrating and kicking. I just had to make sure I made them."

UConn's last home loss, oddly enough, came against Rutgers in the 2007 Big East tournament championship game in Hartford. The Huskies now head to Louisville where to play the Cardinals on Tuesday night.

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