Knocking Off Number 1

Samori Benjamin

Rutgers' Matee Ajavon and Kia Vaughn chest bump after a dramatic win over arch-rival and number 1 team in the land Uconn.

 PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer could think of only one way to describe Epiphanny Prince's night against No. 1 Connecticut.

"I don't think her game was anything less than spectacular," Stringer said.

Prince scored 27 of her career-high 33 points in the second half and No. 7 Rutgers handed Connecticut its first loss of the season, 73-71 Tuesday.

Kia Vaughn added 14 points and Matee Ajavon had 13 for Rutgers (19-3, 9-1 Big East), which snapped Connecticut's 34-game regular season winning streak. It was Rutgers' first victory over a top-ranked opponent during the regular season since beating LSU on Jan. 5, 2005.

Renee Montgomery scored 24 points and Tina Charles added 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Connecticut (21-1, 8-1). The Huskies, who were the last unbeaten team in Division I basketball, last lost in the regular season to North Carolina on Jan. 15, 2007.

"We lost our composure," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "Plain and simple we played dumb at times."

Despite losing 17 of the first 18 meetings to Connecticut, Rutgers has evened out the rivalry lately. The Scarlet Knights have taken five of the last eight meetings, including a victory in the Big East tournament championship last season.

With the game tied at 61 with 4:17 left, Essence Carson hit two free throws and Ajavon hit a 3-pointer to give Rutgers a 66-61 lead with 2:50 left. After Montgomery scored a layup to cut the deficit to three, Prince answered with a jumper.

Montgomery missed a 3-pointer on the other end and Connecticut was forced to foul Prince, who hit both free throws to give Rutgers a 70-63 lead with 1:42 left.

Connecticut refused to go away as Maya Moore hit consecutive 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 72-69 with 58 seconds left. After Rutgers turned the ball over on a shot clock violation, Connecticut had one last chance, but turned the ball over on the inbounds.

Carson hit one of two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to seal the win.


"It means a lot to beat UConn," Prince said. "I tried to spark us a little bit with defense."

Connecticut was facing its first real road test of the season. The Huskies played Stanford and Duke at the Paradise Jam on a neutral court, but hadn't faced a top 10 team on the road this season. UConn was bothered by the loud boisterous sold out crowd, which was hoping to see the Scarlet Knights pin the first loss of the season on their rivals.

"The Giants did it so can Rutgers!" said one fans sign in honor of the New York Giants victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

"We played in front of big crowds before, we just couldn't pull it out," Moore said.

Prince, who's previous career high was 29 against Florida last season, wouldn't let the Scarlet Knights' faithful fans go home unhappy.

"The last time I saw a crowd like this was freshman year against LSU," Carson said. "It was loud and packed the entire time tonight. You can feel the support from the fans and they made us feel great."

With Rutgers trailing 40-30 early in the second half, Prince took over. She scored 14 of the next 16 points for Rutgers as the Scarlet Knights went on a 16-4 run to take a 46-44 lead -- their first since scoring the game's first four points. Prince had back-to-back three-point plays and a 3-pointer during the spurt.

"Epiphanny started making shots," Auriemma said. "Every shot she hit was a tough shot, it wasn't like she had any open looks."

After Rutgers took the lead, the teams traded baskets until Carson's free throw gave Rutgers a 63-61 lead with 3:37 left. Matee Ajavon followed with a 3-pointer to extend the lead to five.

Connecticut jumped on the Scarlet Knights, taking a 33-24 halftime lead. Montgomery scored five straight points during a 7-0 run that gave Connecticut an 18-10 lead midway through the first half. Rutgers was able to cut the deficit to five, but could get no closer before the break. Montgomery had 14 and Charles added 10 in the first half.

Vaughn kept Rutgers in the game scoring 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

Moore, who was scoreless in the first half, finished with 15. She moved into eighth place on UConn's all-time freshman scoring list, passing Diana Taurasi, Jen Rizzotti, Kara Wolters and Charde Houston.

Rutgers is in the midst of a brutal stretch in its schedule facing four straight ranked opponents for the first time in the regular season. The Scarlet Knights split with West Virginia (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) and No. 15 Pittsburgh. They travel to Knoxville on Monday to face No. 2 Tennessee in a rematch of last season's national championship game.

"We don't have time to celebrate and relax we have Tennessee next week," Stringer said.

Follow WBAI Sports on Twitter
Bookmark and Share