It was the Huskies' lowest point total of the season but that was by design. Coach Geno Auriemma knew going into Sunday night's matchup against Rutgers in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament that the game was about physicality above all else. And if that meant scoring 49 points -- as long as UConn prevailed -- then so be it.
So while the Huskies didn't light up the scoreboard, they still won by 15, thanks in part to a first half that included 15 points (on five 3-pointers) from freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis that gave UConn a 12-point lead at the break.
"For 40 minutes we guarded them exactly how we wanted to guard them," Auriemma said. "I tip my hat off to these guys because it takes a lot to concentrate that hard and play that hard on defense. I thought our rebounding was great. All and all it was a pretty gutty performance by our guys."
The Huskies out-rebounded Rutgers, 37-32, but also added eight blocks (to Rutgers' two). Sophomore center Stefanie Dolson, who has struggled at times this season, scored 10 points, pulled eight rebounds and had half of those eight blocked shots.
"We played an amazing game of defense, we communicated a lot on defense and helped each other with screens," Dolson said. "We did a great job doing that and really playing defense for the entire 30 seconds and finishing it with a rebound."
Auriemma, who has gently criticized Dolson in recent weeks, understands what it takes to win in March and April. "At this time of the year, you go into every game hoping and praying that your offense is good. You are searching for guys that can make big shots," he said via the Hartford Courant. "But it's no secret that teams who win the postseason are the ones who play strong defense and rebound. If you do, you have a chance to win every game."
It sounds odd to say, but the win snapped a two-game home losing streak for UConn that goes back to 1993. Next up: St. John's, who beat the Huskies on Feb. 18.
"You never want someone to come into your house and beat you the way they did," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "They just came in there and they played St. John's basketball and we didn't play Connecticut basketball. It's going to be different tomorrow. We're going to be a whole `nother team that St. John's is going to be playing."
St. John's advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Louisville. But their victory over the Huskies last month was their most important of the season.
The Huskies are hoping to avoid a repeat performance on their home court. Tip-off is Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.