February 13, 2005

(11) Rutgers 76, (10) Connecticut 62

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Chelsea Newton provided just what Rutgers needed to end its 12-game losing streak to Big East nemesis Connecticut.

After sitting out a 13-point loss to UConn 11 days ago, Newton scored 19 points Sunday to lead the Scarlet Knights to a 76-62 victory over the Huskies.

``That was what we missed, she's the guts of our team,'' Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. ``She's hard in the lane, moving and vocal.''

No. 11 Rutgers (18-5, 9-2 Big East) beat the Huskies for just the second time in seven years, dating to a 74-70 win at home on Feb. 10, 1998. No. 10 UConn leads the series 17-2.

Newton and the Rutgers seniors lost seven straight to the Huskies by an average of 20.5 points.

``It feels good to get over the hump,'' Newton said. ``For us, it's been a mental block. Now the monkey is off our back.''

Rutgers and UConn (16-6, 9-2) are tied for second in the conference, a half-game behind No. 6 Notre Dame with five games left in the regular season.

Cappie Pondexter had 18 points and Michelle Campbell added 13 for the Scarlet Knights, whose pressure defense forced the three-time defending champions into 19 turnovers that they converted into 21 points.

Newton played her second game after sitting out two because of a mild concussion sustained Jan. 30 against West Virginia. She stabilized a Rutgers team that lost to UConn without her, 57-44 at the Hartford Civic Center, adding six rebounds and three assists.

The Scarlet Knights opened up a 12-0 lead and never trailed in winning their 11th straight at home.

Ann Strother had 20 points for UConn, the only Huskies player in double figures. UConn embarrassed Rutgers 11 days ago, opening up a 12-0 lead.

This time, Rutgers returned the favor.

``We knew we had to set the tempo early,'' Pondexter said. ``The first five minutes said it all.''

UConn missed its first six shots and committed six turnovers. Charde Houston finally got the Huskies on the board with 14:15 left in the half and scored all six of their points in the opening 8 minutes.

Rutgers turned up the defensive pressure, creating a steal and forcing Strother into two consecutive turnovers en route to an 11-2 run to end the half. Essence Carson had two jumpers in the run, and the Huskies had a shot clock violation and two air balls in the final minutes.

Pondexter finished the spree with a jumper that brought the crowd to its feet as the Scarlet Knights built a 34-22 lead at the break. UConn's 22 first-half points tied for its lowest of the season.

Newton had eight first-half points on 3-of-7 shooting. She helped distribute the ball -- Rutgers shot 51 percent in the first half -- and pressure UConn's guards.

``It was like having Kobe Bryant out there,'' Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. ``The reason why they lost the last time is because they didn't have Chelsea Newton, right? That and they made every single shot in the first half.''

Connecticut fell to 4-5 against ranked teams this season.

The Huskies chipped away at the lead with five 3-pointers early in the second half. Strother made three consecutive for UConn, cutting the deficit to 50-41 with just over 10 minutes left.

Jessica Moore's six straight points drew the Huskies to 52-47 with 7:58 left, but they would get no closer. Newton's 3-pointer extended the lead, and the two teams traded shots and free throws the rest of the way.

Pondexter made a jumper in the final seconds to put an exclamation mark on the win. Stringer blew kisses and raised her fist to the raucous ovation from the sold-out crowd of 8,014.

Earlier in the season the Scarlet Knights knocked off three Top 10 teams, including No. 1 LSU. Pondexter understands her team must go through UConn, which has won or shared 11 straight regular-season titles, to win the Big East.

``We know in our hearts the season is not over,'' she said. ``We know we'll probably meet them in the Big East championship.''

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