PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Rutgers (10-5, 1-2) returns to the rugged road of the BIG EAST when it travels to Hartford to meet top 10-ranked Connecticut (12-2, 1-2) in a 7 p.m. tip-off on Tuesday (Jan. 11) evening at the XL Center. The Huskies, who have been ranked as high as No. 4 in both polls this season, were ranked No. 9 in the AP poll and No. 10 in the coaches poll released on Jan. 10. The Scarlet Knights have never defeated a top 10-ranked opponent on its home floor. RU downed No. 10 Cincinnati on a neutral court, 89-70, on Feb. 19, 1977. Rutgers last win over a nationally-ranked team on the road was a 77-64 win at No. 13 Pittsburgh on Jan. 26, 2008.
The game will be televised live on SNY in the New York market and The Comcast Network in the Philadelphia market with John Rooke calling the action and Ron Perry offering the analysis. On the web, the contest will be streamed live at www.ESPN3.com (subject to blackout). On the radio, the match-up will be broadcast live on the Rutgers Radio Network, WOR 710 AM in New York and WCTC 1450 AM in New Brunswick. Chris Carlin will serve as play-by-play announcer and Dick Lloyd will provide commentary.
Tuesday evening’s contest marks the 47th meeting between the Scarlet Knights and Huskies dating back to 1952, with UConn holding 33-13 advantage in victories. Rutgers is 1-16 in BIG EAST regular season play versus the Huskies, who have won nine straight in the series. The last Rutgers win was a 61-53 triumph over No. 17-ranked UConn at the RAC on Jan. 30, 2002. RU will be looking to earn its first win over the Huskies in the Constitution State in 34 years, dating back to an 84-77 triple overtime win at the Hartford Civic Center on Jan. 8, 1977.
Rutgers is coming off an 85-72 home victory over Providence Saturday evening. Senior forward Jonathan Mitchell (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore big man Austin Johnson (Elkins Park, Pa.) scored a career-high 16 points on six-of-nine shooting. The Scarlet Knights made a season-high 54.4 percent (31-57) of their field goal attempts and limited the Friars to just 30.8 (20-65) shooting to earn the win, which marked the initial BIG EAST victory at the helm for first-year head coach Mike Rice.
The RU frontcourt of Mitchell, Johnson and Gilvydas Biruta (Jonava, Lithuania) combined to shoot 19-of-33 en route to scoring 50 points. Biruta was six-of-seven from the field for 13 points with seven boards. The trio was also instrumental in Rutgers establishing a 41-35 rebounding advantage, which enabled RU to out-score the Friars by a 46-26 margin in the paint.
After trailing 35-33 at the break, Rutgers scored 52 second half points versus the Friars. It marked RU’s most in a half since also posting 52 in the second half in a 91-84 home win over Marquette on Feb. 12, 2006.
Rutgers ranks third in the BIG EAST in steals (8.87), while placing fourth in the league in blocks (5.6) and fifth in both field goal percentage defense (.386) and turnover margin (+3.67). Individually, Biruta is fifth in field goal percentage (.564) and James Beatty (Wilmington, N.C.) is fifth in steals (1.93). In the conference only stats, senior guard Mike Coburn (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) is second in assists (7.67), Miller is third in blocks (3.0), Beatty is fourth in three-point field goals made (3.33), Biruta is fifth in field goal percentage (.739) and Johnson is sixth in field goal percentage (.692)
Connecticut, under the leadership of 25th-year head coach Jim Calhoun, scored another impressive nonconference win away from home as the Huskies defeated No. 12 Texas 82-81 in overtime Saturday afternoon in Austin. Connecticut already had neutral-site wins against Michigan State and Kentucky to its credit this season. Junior guard Kemba Walker scored seven of his game-high 22 points in overtime versus the Longhorns. He made the game-winning field goal with five seconds left in OT. Center Alex Oriakhi had 11 points and a career-high 21 rebounds. Connecticut leads the BIG EAST in offensive rebounds (16.5), free throw percentage (.764) and blocks (7.14). Walker leads the nation in scoring with 25.8 points-per-game, while also pacing the conference in steals (2.36). GAME NOTES