UConn overcomes slow start against South Florida
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Defending national champion Connecticut passed its first real road test of the season.
Rebounding from losing its American Athletic Conference opener at home, the Huskies completed a successful road swing through the Sunshine State with a 58-44 victory over South Florida on Tuesday night.
Amida Brimah scored 13 points and Ryan Boatright added 10 for UConn (8-5, 1-1), which played its first true road game over the weekend at Florida.
The Huskies also overcame a slow start against the Gators to wipe out a 13-point, second-half deficit and win a rematch of one of last season’s national semifinals 63-59.
A pretty good way to start 2015 after falling to Temple in overtime on New Year’s Eve.
”Definitely a business trip for us,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said after another solid defensive performance. ”Shows the resolve of a champion. They’re starting to believe now.”
The Huskies trailed by seven early but took control during a 21-2 run mostly led by reserves, including 14 straight points to open a 42-26 lead early in the second half.
Boatright’s 3-pointer made it 51-33 and the closest USF got over the last eight minutes was 12.
”It looked like we were sleepwalking out there in the first half and couldn’t make a shot,” Ollie said. ”Then when I inserted those guys, the tempo, the rhythm of the game picked up.”
UConn won for the fourth time in five games, with the lone setback over the stretch a four-point overtime loss at home to Temple in their conference opener.
Corey Allen Jr. led USF (7-9, 1-2) with 12 points.
In addition to leading UConn in scoring, the 7-foot Brimah had eight rebounds and six blocks. Boatright scored eight of his 10 points after halftime.
Boatright, hindered the previous two games by a deep thigh bruise that limited him to playing just 17 minutes against Temple, continued to struggle offensively for the Huskies. Despite scoring 14 and helping UConn overcome a 13-point second-half deficit to beat Florida, the senior guard missed nine of 11 shots from the field against the Gators.
He missed three of his first four shots against USF, which led most of the opening half before UConn closed on a 7-0 spurt to take a 28-24 halftime lead. Omar Calhoun keyed the surge with a 3-pointer that ended a stretch of nine consecutive misses from beyond the arc by the cold-shooting Huskies, then followed with a 17-foot jumper to put his team ahead for good.
UConn’s first eight field goals of the night were made by different players, and the Huskies continued to share the scoring load in the second half.
Calhoun finished with eight points and Daniel Hamilton had seven.
Allen didn’t have much help offensively for USF. The Bulls’ other big scoring threats, Chris Perry and Anthony Collins, were held to five points apiece on combined 4-of-14 shooting.
”We live off the defensive end,” Boatright said. ”I don’t think we’re as talented on the offensive end, so we’ve got to pride ourselves on the defensive end. The more times that we get stops, the better opportunities we have on the other end.”
UConn: The Huskies lead the all-time series between the teams 13-2. The losses in 2010 and 2013 both came in the USF Sun Dome, where UConn has won five of seven meetings. … After going 1 for 10 on 3-point attempts in the opening half, UConn was 3 of 4 after halftime.
USF: The Bulls are the second-youngest team in the nation. They began the season with just three players – Allen, Perry and Collins – with Division I experience before this year.
UConn, which has played before three of the four largest basketball crowds in NCAA history, is accustomed to playing in packed arenas everywhere it travels. The Sun Dome wasn’t sold out Tuesday, however the Bulls did attract their biggest crowd of the season – an announced 6,128. The previous high was 3,621 for the season opener against Flagler.
UConn: Cincinnati in Hartford on Saturday.
USF: at Tulane on Sunday.