No. 9 UConn hammers Holy Cross
It’s not unusual for athletes to get sick in anticipation of big games.
Holy Cross guard R.J. Evans, a Connecticut native playing in his home state against its marquee team, waited until after the first half on Sunday.
Evans, who played high school ball in Norwich, had 15 points in the Crusader’s 77-40 loss to No. 9 Connecticut.
”I hope it was because he was sick to his stomach because of how the result was,” Holy Cross coach Milan Brown said. ”I wanted to throw up, too.”
Holy Cross (4-7) shot only 17.6 percent in the second half and connected on just 26 percent for the game. Guard Devin Brown, the Crusaders’ leading scorer, was 1 of 12.
The defending national champion Huskies (9-1) used their inside strength to dominate play as freshman center Andre Drummond led the way with 24 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots.
Alex Oriakhi added 15 points and Shabazz Napier had 13 assists for UConn, which is 117-4 under coach Jim Calhoun in home games against non-conference opponents from New England, including 114 wins in the last 115 such games.
Evans kept Holy Cross in the game early with eight first-half points. The Huskies hit just five of their first 15 shots, and the game was tied at 13 before Jeremy Lamb’s steal and dunk put the Huskies ahead for good. Lamb, who was guarded by Evans, finished with just 10 points, 10 below his average.
UConn pulled away with an 18-0 run highlighted by Ryan Boatright’s crossover move along the baseline and reverse layup. The Huskies led 43-24 at halftime.
”The first 10 to 15 minutes kind of went by the wayside,” Brown said. ”They can strike so quickly, and that was the thing we tried to tell our guys before the game. When you’re playing somebody this talented, if you make a mistake they can make you pay every time.”
Drummond and Oriakhi scored all the points in a 10-4 run that opened the second half and put the game out of reach.
UConn’s big men (Drummond, Oriakhi and Tyler Olander) outscored Holy Cross 45-40 by themselves.
An alley-oop pass from Napier to Drummond gave the Huskies a 59-31 lead. Another after a missed free throw made it 70-36.
Drummond also showed off an array of post moves, including a turnaround jump shot for the first time this season.
”Someone asked me how much he’s improved thus far,” Calhoun said. ”About 100 percent, and I think he’s got about another thousand to go. He’s got talent.”
Connecticut committed just one foul in the first half and finished with eight, something Calhoun attributed to the pace of the game which saw the Huskies outscore the Crusaders 26-4 on the fast break.
UConn was playing for the first time since beating Harvard at home on Dec. 8. Holy Cross hadn’t played since a Dec. 9 win over Sacred Heart.
Though he personally had played rather well with eight points and two nice dunks, upon his return to the court for the second half, Evans apparently was a bit overcome by the moment. He started coughing then had to grab a courtside trash can to throw up. Evans said he wasn’t ill and didn’t think he was too nervous, though admitted the latter might have gotten to him.
”I was definitely excited,” said Evans, a native of Salem. ”This game’s been marked on my calendar since the beginning of the year. I had a lot of family and friends here. It was good to play in front of them.”
The Huskies and the Crusaders were playing for the first time since 1988.
Holy Cross still leads the all-time series between the schools 20-13, but has lost five straight to the Huskies in a rivalry that dates to 1908.
Connecticut assistant coach George Blaney, who played at Holy Cross and coached the Crusaders for 22 seasons, was facing his alma mater for the first time since joining UConn 11 seasons ago.