Rutgers challenges No. 19 Connecticut
Storrs, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - In the Top-25 yet again, the 19th-ranked Connecticut Huskies will play their final home game of the season against American Athletic Conference rival Rutgers on Wednesday night.
UConn's absence from the national rankings lasted only a week, as the Huskies climbed back in following consecutive wins over South Florida (61-56) and Cincinnati (51-45). They are now an impressive 23-6 overall, including an 11-5 mark in league play, which is tied with Memphis for the fourth-best mark in the conference. They have a major test to wrap up the season this Saturday when they visit Louisville.
Kadeem Jack nailed a jumper in the paint with 11 seconds remaining and USF's Victor Rudd missed two free-throws at the other end to allow Rutgers to escape with a 74-73 win over the Bulls last Saturday. The win ended a four-game losing streak for the Scarlet Knights, who are just 11-18 overall and 5-11 against the rest of the conference. They will host Cincinnati in their season finale.
When the Huskies visited Rutgers at the RAC earlier this season they came away with an 82-71 victory. It was the second straight and 20th victory in the last 22 meetings for UConn against the Scarlet Knights. The Huskies lead the all-time series as well (35-14).
Jack and J.J. Moore each finished with 20 points to lead the way for Rutgers against USF. The Scarlet Knights trailed, 42-32, at halftime and by as many as 15 points in the second half, but they netted 15-of-17 free throws in the period, while turning the ball over only four times in the game.
As its record might indicate, Rutgers has not been an overly effective offensive team this season. The Scarlet Knights are scoring the fifth-most points per game (72.9) in the conference, while shooting the eighth-best percentage from the field (.432). Jack (14.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is one of three double-digit scorers, with Myles Mack (15.3 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Moore (10.9 ppg) being the others. Mack struggled with another off night from the field against USF, netting just 3-of-10 shots to finish with eight points.
In a brutal fight with Cincinnati, UConn made more plays down the stretch to finish off the Bearcats. The Huskies limited their opponents to only 27.1 percent shooting, while forcing twice as many turnovers (20) as they committed (10). Shabazz Napier scored 18 points and collected 11 rebounds to power the winning side.
Putting the clamps on opposing teams has been one of the strongest aspects of UConn's game this season. The Huskies are limiting foes to just 62.8 ppg, while ranking 10th in the nation in opponent field goal percentage (.387). Napier (1.7 8ppg, 6 rpg, 5.3 apg) has been one of the best guards not only in the AAC, but the country this season. He leads the team and ranks second in the conference in both scoring and assists, while also topping the Huskies in rebounding. Napier is part of perhaps the most effective backcourt in the country, with Ryan Boatright (12.4 ppg, 3.5 apg) serving as a second option in scoring and ball-handling and Niels Giffey (8 ppg, .500 3P percentage) a lethal shooter from the perimeter. DeAndre Daniels (!2.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg) anchors the unit in the paint.