Boatright leads UConn over UCF 67-60
STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn made a barrage of 3-point baskets to build an 18-point lead over UCF, then held on to pick up its first win in three games.
Ryan Boatright scored 18 points and had seven assists to lead the defending national champions over the Knights 67-60 on Thursday night.
Amida Brimah added 14 points and had four blocked shots for UConn (10-7, 3-2 American). All six of the 7-foot center’s baskets came on lob passes from teammates that he turned into dunks.
Omar Calhoun added 11 points and Daniel Hamilton had 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
B.J. Taylor led UCF (9-9, 2-5) with 13 points and Justin McBride added 11. Adonys Henriquez and Daiquan Walker each chipped in with 10.
UConn never trailed and used a 19-2 first half run to build an early 36-18 lead.
But UCF never quit and it was just a five-point game after a 3-pointer by Henriquez with 3 1/2 minutes left. UConn stretched it back to 10 before another Henriquez 3-pointer that came after the game had been decided.
”That’s always disappointing when you make the game harder than it’s got to be,” Boatright said. ”Once you get a team down 18, you’ve got to step on their neck and put them away.”
Boatright, who had been held out of double figures in his last two games, hit his first four shots from 3-point range and had 12 points by intermission.
The Huskies made 10 of their 17 shots from 3-point range in the first half and finished 11 of 20 from behind the arc.
But while UCF did a better job guarding the 3-point line in the second half, that allowed the Huskies’ guards to penetrate and left Brimah open underneath.
”Once I beat my man, Amida’s man comes to help and I know he’s going to come and help, so I just threw it up to Amida,” Hamilton said.
UConn also played good defense, holding UCF 10 points under its season average. The Huskies scored 18 points off 12 UCF turnovers.
”With our young team, sometimes we don’t make good decisions,” said UCF coach Donnie Jones. ”That really hurt us.”
UConn jumped out quickly. A 3-pointer from Calhoun and a lob dunk by Brimah made it 5-0 and forced a UCF timeout a minute into the game.
Philip Nolan later drew a charging foul, the 14th time he’s done that this season to spark the big run that appeared to give UConn control of the game.
But the Knights closed the half on a 15-3 run, and scored the last 10 points to trail just 39-33 at intermission. UCF held the Huskies without a bucket for the final 3 minutes of the half, after keeping them scoreless for a 4-minute stretch earlier.
”We just relaxed,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. ”Good teams can’t relax.”
UCF: B.J. Taylor who followed up at 33-point performance against Tulane on Jan. 14 with 17 points against Memphis last Saturday hit just four of his 13 shots. He came into the game leading all freshmen in the conference in scoring at 14.9 points per game.
UConn: The Huskies had a season-high 21 assists on 25 baskets.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE:
The Huskies had not played on campus since losing to Yale on Dec. 5. They have played at seven different arenas since then, including four home games in Hartford and another game 80 miles away in Bridgeport.
UCF came in with just one road win on the season, an overtime victory at Houston.
UCF: The Knights continue their road trip in Cincinnati on Sunday to take on the Bearcats.
UCONN: The Huskies head to Hartford on Sunday for a game against USF.