With 15 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the first half Saturday at Rutgers, UConn coach Geno Auriemma extended his hook and reeled four starters back to the bench.
He was not happy. The Huskies were already trailing by six, on the way to their first 10-point deficit of the season. Things were just limping along. Auriemma does not care much for that velocity.
It was time to change the pace. And when Auriemma was done, only Stefanie Dolson was left standing; she had each of UConn's four points at the time, so there was no reason for her to sit.
"We had a game plan going in and one of the things we didn't want to do was put Rutgers on the foul line unnecessarily," Auriemma said. "And I thought all we did right those first four minutes was foul [four times]. We weren't doing much of anything else right."
So in came Morgan Tuck, Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Kiah Stokes. And off to the races went the Huskies.
"I figured the next group couldn't do any worse," Auriemma said. "And they did better."
The moral is that not every game goes according to plan, not even the 25th of the season.
"I certainly was surprised," Tuck said. "It's not the time that I am accustomed to getting into the game."
When it was over, all was well. Getting big contributions from freshmen Tuck (15 points, five rebounds) and Jefferson (10 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals), UConn beat Rutgers 65-45 before a crowd of 5,378.
"They were exactly what we needed," Auriemma said. "We needed to throw the ball into the low post to someone other than Stefanie and come up with something."
Tuck's 15 points (5 of 7) was her first double-figure game since scoring 10 at Oregon on Dec. 31 and her best game since scoring 16 against Wake Forest on Nov. 22.
"This goes a long way for Moriah and Morgan in terms of knowing they can contribute," Auriemma said.
Dolson ended with 14 points and four rebounds. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis ended with 12 points and four rebounds.
"I am very impressed with the way they played their hearts out," Dolson said. "You keep building on things like this and you keep moving from here."
Guard Shake Richardson led the Scarlet Knights with 10 points. The Scarlet Knights (14-10, 5-6 in the Big East) were 17 of 47 from the field and had 19 turnovers.
In the process, UConn denied Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer her 900th career win. She needs just one more to become the fourth women's basketball coach to reach the plateau.
At the very least, the Huskies (24-1, 11-1) know there's another way to proceed as they prepare for No. 1 Baylor (24-1) Monday at the XL Center.
If this was the last time the Huskies will ever play in Piscataway, it was reminiscent of so many of the other scrums since 1986.
Rutgers is scheduled to leave the Big East for the Big Ten after next season, although there is always the chance that the Scarlet Knights could pay the exit fee and bolt sooner.
The Scarlet Knights have lost two straight and are in danger of not getting an invitation to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade.
This was not a good matchup for Rutgers, which scored a combined 68 points in its past two games against UConn. It was a stop-and-go affair with a few brief flurries. UConn was held to 20 field goals (40.8 percent) and just 5 of 20 from three-point range.
The Scarlet Knights were averaging just 57.4 points, shooting just 41.4 percent from the floor. And they failed to match either standard on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Huskies had scored 290 points in their previous three games, including 105 at Providence on Tuesday, its fourth 100-point game of the season and first against a Big East opponent.
But Rutgers did not roll out the welcome mat. It took a 14-4 lead with 14:20 to play in the half shortly after the Huskies' wholesale changes.
Still, UConn fought back. Baskets by Dolson and Tuck cut the lead to six with 7:22 to play in the half. Stewart's hoop gave UConn its first lead, 19-18, with 7:22 remaining.
The Huskies did not relinquish the lead even though Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, their leading scorer, did not register her first two points until only 91 seconds remained in the half.
Bria Hartley, who had scored 50 points in her past three games, never reappeared after the purge at 15:34. Auriemma said she had been ill since Friday and simply could not play.
Dolson, who missed the last 8:03 after getting a third foul, and Tuck each had eight points in the first half. But the Huskies were 13 of 29 from the field and just 2 of 11 from three-point range. They scored 16 points off the fast break.
But any chance that the Scarlet Knights had of rebounding in the second half was quickly squelched when the Huskies scored the first five points in just 29 seconds.Copyright © 2015, CT Now