STORRS, Conn. – Despite getting blown out for the third straight game, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer wasn't too worried.
The Hall of Fame coach is hoping her team can learn from its mistakes.
The 13th-ranked Scarlet Knights finished a brutal stretch of their schedule with a 66-34 loss to No. 3 Connecticut on Saturday night. They got blown out by No. 20 Georgetown, second-ranked Notre Dame and now the Huskies.
"I'm happy this all happened," Stringer said. "I'm not too stressed out, I'll be critical to our team, but on the other hand my challenge is much more clear. Either you step to it or you don't want to be here."
The Scarlet Knights now have eight days off until their next game — a rematch with St. John's, which beat the Scarlet Knights two weeks ago.
"Now we get a chance to take a breather and hopefully get some ice baths and let our bodies heal a little bit," Stringer said. "I'm grateful that we had an opportunity to play someone who would pin us. If we didn't we'd be stunned first round of the NCAA tournament."
Rutgers was once again without senior guard Khadijah Rushdan, who suffered a concussion in the first half of the loss to the Hoyas. She didn't travel to Connecticut with the Scarlet Knights so she could continue to recover.
Rushdan is the second-leading scorer on the team and had been playing really well before getting hurt. She rescued the Scarlet Knights from a 16-point deficit in the second half to beat DePaul. She scored the final 11 points of that game, including the winning lay-in with 1.5 seconds left.
Rutgers missed her against Connecticut, which extended its home winning streak to 98 games.
Stefanie Dolson scored 16 points and Tiffany Hayes had 14 for the Huskies (21-2, 9-1 Big East).
The Huskies grabbed control with a 17-0 run midway through the first half. Hayes got the run started with eight straight points. Then Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis took over, hitting three straight 3-pointers. All three of the freshman's shots barely even moved the net.
"When Kaleena came in and we went on that run, the defense got fueled as well," coach Geno Auriemma said. "We started rebounding better and playing better."
Rutgers (17-6, 6-4) scored seven straight to cut it to 10, but UConn closed the half with 14 of the final 18 points to lead 37-19 at the break.
Monique Oliver scored 15 points for the Scarlet Knights, who could only get within 16 in the second half.
UConn's last home loss was against Rutgers in the Big East tournament title game in 2007, which was played in Hartford. The NCAA recognizes Connecticut's postseason games played in Hartford or Storrs as home contests.
Stringer started four freshmen and junior center Monique Oliver for the second straight game. Just like in their loss to No. 2 Notre Dame, the talented young group held their own for the first few minutes before Hayes and UConn took control with the huge run.
It was the 11th time in the past 12 games that Hayes has scored in double figures. The senior guard recently set a UConn record for points in consecutive games when she had 68 total in wins over Syracuse and South Florida.
Rutgers tried playing a deliberate plodding style, constantly working the shot clock down to the final few seconds before attempting a shot. The Scarlet Knights just couldn't convert many of their opportunities on offense.
Rutgers finished with 13 baskets, 21 turnovers and 19 fouls. The Scarlet Knights had only hit three baskets in the first 17 minutes of the second half, going nearly 7 minutes without a field goal at one point as UConn extended its advantage to 33 points.
It was the second straight game that the Huskies held a ranked opponent to under 46 points. UConn beat Duke 61-45 on Monday night. The Huskies lead the nation in defense, giving up just 45 points a game.
Rutgers' schedule does get a bit easier from here; it currently has no more games left against Top 25 teams.
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