It's never easy against Rutgers, is it? Whether it's a foot or an inch the opponent seeks, let alone a pocket wide enough to slip through, it doesn't come without maximum effort. Never has, probably never will.
No. 1 UConn knew this before Tuesday's game at the XL Center. Several of the Huskies have bumps and bruises in their memory banks to remind them of past collisions. Just ask Maya Moore.
"They are definitely a physical team. It's something they are known for," Moore said. "They are going to have talent and they are going to be physical. So I try to go in with the battle mentality."
Tuesday night was no different for UConn. At first, it was torturous trying to cut through the Scarlet Knights' defense. Picture a knife through an ice cream cake straight out of the freezer.
"It was pretty much like what we've come to expect," Geno Auriemma said.
But given time, 14 minutes or so, the Huskies began to soften up the Scarlet Knights. Soon, they all took their piece. And before you could say Cappie Pondexter, a two-point lead had morphed into a 73-36 rout before 12,437.
"We are confident on defense," Kalana Greene said. "We try to make them take shots they're not comfortable taking. And take the ball out of their best player's hand. They scored 36. Right now, we're looking at it like, 'Wow, we could have held them to less than that.' It's how competitive we are. We hate it when people score against us."
Moore led the Huskies with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Greene scored 17. Tina Charles had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Charles needs 17 points to reach 2,000 for her career, and the next stop is Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center on Saturday at 2 p.m.
UConn (20-0, 7-0 Big East) has won 59 games in a row.
Rutgers (12-8, 4-2) was led by sophomore Chelsey Lee, who scored 10 points. Senior Brittany Ray, the Scarlet Knights' leading scorer with a 16.6 average coming into the game, was held to three points (1-for-11), mostly by the persistence of Greene.
This was the only regular season meeting between these intense rivals, who have played in four Big East tournament finals and one NCAA regional final since 1998.
But this is a much different Rutgers team than what UConn fans might remember. The Knights' post presence, Kia Vaughn, just completed her rookie season with the WNBA's New York Liberty. Their scorer, Epiphanny Prince, is playing in Europe after leaving school after her junior year.
C. Vivian Stringer, not one to ignore a motivational opportunity, said last week she would basically throw the offensive car keys to her kids, asking only that they come back with 75 or 80 points. Maybe the next time around the block will be better.
The Scarlet Knights made only 7 of 30 shots in the first half, the major reason they trailed, 40-15. They were also 0-for-7 on three-pointers. They finished 16-for-56 from the field, 1-for-14 on threes.
In the game's formative minutes, UConn wasn't much better. The Huskies led 10-8 with 11:44 remaining in the half, making just 4 of 14 shots along the way. Then came a media timeout.
"What did I say?" Auriemma said. "I don't remember. I was blacked out."
The teams combined for eight misses until Moore opened the scoring off a rebound. Rutgers took a 4-3 lead on a basket by Lee, but Tiffany Hayes banked home a three 18 seconds later.
Then you blinked once, maybe twice, and Rutgers missed eight straight shots and 14 of 15. The score was 30-10 with 4:15 left,
"What changed?" Stringer said. "We couldn't score."
The 20-2 run was led by Moore, Charles and Greene, who with every stride seems to rise in the first round of the WNBA draft.Copyright © 2015, CT Now