No. 19 Rutgers 55, No. 2 Connecticut 47
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut's perfection meant nothing to Rutgers with the Big East title on the line.
The Scarlet Knights, beaten twice during the regular season by Uconn, upset the Huskies 55-47 in the championship game of the Big East tournament Tuesday night. It was the first loss for the Huskies in conference play this season -- and the first Big East tournament title for Rutgers after four losses in the final game, including three to UConn.
Essence Carson scored 15 points for No. 19 Rutgers, which held second-ranked Connecticut to one basket over the final 7:56.
The Scarlet Knights (22-8) lost in the Big East final to the Huskies in 1998, 2000, and 2005. Rutgers also lost to Boston College in the 2004 championship game.
The Huskies (29-3) finished the regular season with a perfect conference record for the sixth time in school history, and they routed Rutgers 70-44 on Feb. 26.
Tuesday night was a much different story.
With Connecticut leading 45-42 on Charde Houston's layup with 7:56 left in the second half, Rutgers turned up its defense, going on a 11-0 run over the next 7:30 to take a 53-45 lead on Carson's free throws with 31.4 seconds left.
Connecticut finally ended its drought on a layup by Charde Houston with 18.9 seconds left, but it was too late.
The Huskies were trying for their third straight tournament championship. They have won 13 of the 25 Big East tournament titles.
Houston led Connecticut with 12 points.
Tina Charles, who was scoreless in the first half and only played 10 minutes because of foul trouble, was a force in the second half for UConn.
With Connecticut trailing 31-26, Charles scored eight points and had two assists during a 17-7 spurt that gave the Huskies a 43-38 lead.
But that was all Connecticut could muster offensively as the Huskies shot 34 percent from the field (20-for-58).
Connecticut is all-but assured a top-seed in the NCAA tournament that starts next weekend. The Huskies will play their first two games at the Hartford Civic Center.
Rutgers has played extremely well lately, winning 12 of its last 14 games. Both the losses came to Connecticut.
Matee Ajavon, who averaged 20.5 points in the first two games of the tournament, struggled from the field going 4-for-22 from the field. She finished with 11 points and was named tournament MVP.
Trailing by three with 3:26 left in the first half, Rutgers closed with a 6-0 run to take a 29-26 advantage into the break. Connecticut, trailing at the half for only the fourth time this season, was able to stay in the game by dominating the boards.
The Huskies held a 27-14 advantage on the glass in the first half that led to half their points.
Top-seeded Connecticut defeated South Florida and Louisville en route to the championship game.
Second-seeded Rutgers beat DePaul and Marquette to get to the finals.