PISCATAWAY, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Ben Gordon and Connecticut found the going rough in their Big East Conference opener.
Gordon scored seven straight points down the stretch to help the top-ranked Huskies survive an inspired effort by Rutgers for a 75-74 victory at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Connecticut (12-1, 1-0 Big East) won its ninth straight game despite being severely challenged for the first time since its 77-61 loss to Georgia Tech on November 26. The hard-fought contest featured six ties and 16 lead changes.
Rutgers (7-4, 0-2) took its final lead at 65-63 on Herve Lamizana's basket with 4:43 left. Gordon responded with a 3-pointer to start his run of seven consecutive points for a 70-65 advantage with 4:09 to go.
The Huskies shot only 48 percent (13-of-27) from the line, keeping the Scarlet Knights alive. Ricky Shields' two foul shots cut the deficit to 75-74 with seven seconds left.
Connecticut's Taliek Brown inbounded to freshman Marcus Williams as Rutgers tried to foul. Williams found an open Denham Brown, who hit a streaking Taliek Brown up the left side. Taliek Brown threw a long pass ahead to Rashad Anderson as the Huskies managed to run out the clock.
The game pitted two of the nation's top shot blockers and UConn All-American center Emeka Okafor and Lamizana each recorded six blocks. The presence in the middle of Okafor, who notched his 37th career double-double with 21 points and 16 rebounds, helped limit Rutgers to 32 percent (24-of-74) shooting.
Rutgers, hosting a top-ranked team for the first time, was hoping to rekindle memories of some of its biggest victories under coach Gary Waters. The Knights defeated the Huskies here two seasons ago and posted a victory last season against eventual national champion Syracuse.
Calvin Wooten's 3-pointer with 18:47 to go gave Rutgers its largest lead at 40-32. The Scarlet Knights, who made 10 3-pointers, fought gamely and forced 17 turnovers.
Gordon fouled out with 22 points and freshman Charlie Villanueva, who had a pair of resounding dunks, added 15 and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. UConn held a 53-40 edge on the glass.
Lamizana finished with 20 points, Shields had 19 and freshman Quincy Douby chipped in 13. Rutgers also hurt itself with a 16-of-26 performance at the line.
The Huskies have captured 11 of the last 12 meetings.