Walker fuels well-rested No. 4 UConn
Connecticut looked a bit rusty coming off a 12-day break for exams.
But Kemba Walker scored 20 points, his teammates dominated the boards and the fourth-ranked Huskies beat Coppin State 76-64 on Monday night to improve to 9-0.
Freshman Jeremy Lamb added 16 points, and Alex Oriakhi had 12 points and seven rebounds for UConn.
Akeem Ellis had 19 points to lead Coppin State (4-4), while Tony Gallo added 17 and Michael Harper had 13.
Connecticut outrebounded the Eagles 58-29, but shot just 41 percent from the floor. The Huskies came into the game the bottom half of the Big East in field-goal percentage at just over 45 percent.
”We missed every kind of conceivable shot in the paint that I’ve ever seen,” said UConn coach Jim Calhoun. ”I like the effort on the glass, without question. I don’t like the fact that we’re not finishing plays in there.”
Calhoun said he never felt UConn was threatened, even after Coppin State cut a 25-point second-half deficit to 10 on a 3-pointer from Harper with over 6 minutes left.
He said the Huskies will have to do a better job defending the 3-pointer, after allowing 11 by the Eagles.
”We gave them a little momentum we shouldn’t have given them,” said Lamb. ”We started playing the scoreboard and we can’t do that.”
The Huskies play one more non-conference game on Wednesday against Harvard before opening the Big East season next Monday at No. 8 Pittsburgh.
”Whether we’re ready or not, here it comes,” Calhoun. ”And I’m looking forward to it.”
Connecticut hit just one of its first 11 shots from the floor, and trailed Coppin State 5-4 just over 3 minutes into the game.
But the Huskies pulled down the games first 13 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end.
”We missed some chippies,” Walker said. ”We got a lot of offensive rebounds, but we just couldn’t put it in the hole.”
Walker led UConn on a 25-3 run that turned a 13-12 lead into a 38-15 advantage. The junior guard scored the first nine of those points during a 2 minute spurt.
The Huskies held Coppin State without a basket for 8 1/2 minutes and went into halftime leading 38-21.
They built the lead to 58-33 early in the second, before Coppin State made its run.
The game marked the debut of 7-foot-1 UConn center Enosch Wolf, who had four points in just 3 minutes. Wolf, from Goettingen, Germany, committed to the Huskies in July, but enrolled for the second semester, after taking classes in the fall at a prep school.
Calhoun said that Wolf’s presence seemed to spark 7-foot senior Charles Okwandu, who had nine points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.
”I have to play aggressive,” Okwandu said. ”Coach promised me if I work hard I’m going to play more minutes, so I need to play hard to earn more minutes.”
Walker, who came into the game tied with Northern Illinois’ Xavier Silas for the Division I scoring lead at over 28 points per game, had just six after intermission.
UConn improved to 207-23 in November and December under Jim Calhoun.
UConn is now 4-0 against Coppin State. The Huskies won the other three by an average of 36.7 points.
It doesn’t get much easier for Coppin State, which spends the rest of the year on the road with games against Wisconsin, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 22 Texas.
”We tried to save all our away games on the road until after school let out,” said Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell. ”It just so happens that we’ve got these four schools to play against.”
The Eagles have dropped now dropped 34 straight against ranked teams. They are now 4-0 at home and 0-4 on the road this season
The Husky men played 24 hours before the UConn women take the same court in an attempt to win their 89th consecutive game, something Calhoun said he finds increadible.
”Clearly, we have the best program in women’s basketball history,” he said.