The series between UConn and Rutgers was once the hottest rivalry in the Big East. It was a made-for-TV event that was so hot that once the conference expanded to 16 teams in 2005 Big East officials made it a point to ensure that the Huskies and Scarlet Knights played home-and-home during the regular season in the 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
The Scarlet Knights won four of six against UConn from Feb. 7, 2006 through Feb. 5, 2008. However, the third-ranked Huskies have won the last nine games heading into Saturday’s meeting at the Rutgers Athletic Center as the rivalry has dissolved. This is likely UConn’s final trip to Piscataway, N.J. with the Scarlet Knights heading to the Big Ten.
The series, which UConn leads 29-6, has also had its share of interesting moments.
On Feb. 10, 1998, then-Rutgers freshman Linda Miles ran by the UConn bench and said “four more years’’ with the Scarlet Knights on their way to their first win over the Huskies in six tries. UConn went on to win the next 12 games in the series.
Then-Rutgers freshman Matee Ajavon refused to shake hands with UConn coach Geno Auriemma following UConn’s 57-44 win at the Hartford Civic Center Feb. 3, 2005. Just more than a month later, former Rutgers All-American Cappie Pondexter, in reaction to words delivered by Auriemma during in the final minutes of UConn’s 67-51 win in the Big East tournament final March 8, 2005, approached him, planted her index finger in his chest several times and had words with Auriemma.
It was later learned that Auriemma’s remarks were directed at official Dennis DeMayo when Auriemma witnessed Ajavon making inappropriate comments to UConn freshman Charde Houston, who was at the free throw line.
Auriemma was asked this week about the series …
“I haven’t given it any thought to be honest with you,’’ Auriemma said. “It’s been so long since any of that stuff has gone on.’’
The foundation of a rivalry was put in place by Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer when she tabbed Rutgers as the “Jewel of the East’’ when she was hired in 1995. That is not quite how it has worked out.
The Huskies have won six national championships in the last 17 seasons. Rutgers has won none; The Huskies have made 11 Final Four appearances. Rutgers has made two; The Huskies have won 14 Big East tournament championships. Rutgers has won one; And the Huskies have claimed 14 Big East regular season championships. Rutgers has won three.
Also, UConn is a combined 119-14 in the postseason, including 8-1 against the Scarlet Knights, since Rutgers joined the Big East in 1995-96. Rutgers is 48-30. And here is another startling fact: Auriemma has won 29 more games (600) than Stringer has coached at Rutgers (571; 379-192) in this span.
“I think the one thing Rutgers has found out is that it’s one thing to say what you’re going to be and what you’re going to do. It’s a whole other thing to be able to sustain it for a long period of time,’’ Auriemma said. “So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all ancient history, all that stuff that happened 15 years ago or 20 years ago whenever it started … Anymore, there really isn’t anything other than we’ve got a game against them on Saturday at their place, and there may or may not be another game against them this year or next year as part of the Big East Conference. I don’t know anything about that.’’