No. 4 UConn extends streak, beats Wagner 78-66
After forcing 28 turnovers in its opening game of the season, Wagner forced Connecticut into 19 on Monday night before losing 78-66 to the defending national champions.
''Obviously UConn is a great team, one of the best in the country,'' said Wagner guard Tyler Murray, who had 10 points. ''Nineteen (turnovers) is a lot for them but we hoped we could get a little more, chip it away a little more, but it didn't fall that way.''
Trailing by 18 points late in the game the Seahawks rallied to pull within single digits. A 10-0 run, aided by consecutive 3-pointers from Josh Thompson and Latif Rivers, cut UConn's lead to 61-53 with just under 8 minutes to play.
But Shabazz Napier scored seven points in UConn's 11-2 run that put the game away,
The point guard finished with 21 points as No. 4 Connecticut extended Division I's longest winning streak to 13 games.
''They stepped up and made some shots, some key shots, some really tough off-the-dribble, distance shots that you really can't prepare for,'' Wagner coach Dan Hurley said.
Jeremy Lamb added 20 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies (2-0), who have never lost a game at Gampel Pavilion during the months of November or December.
Rivers scored 11 points and Murray's 10, all in the first half, for Wagner (1-1).
After outrebounding Columbia by just two and being outrebounded 20-10 on the offensive end in their season opener, the Huskies made crashing the boards a point of emphasis in this one. They outrebounded Wagner 42-24, including 18-11 on the offensive end.
''We're used to getting crushed on the boards. It's an acquired taste,'' Hurley said with a laugh. ''Their guys are really big. And we're young and physically immature.''
Wagner committed 28 fouls, and UConn hit 31 of 43 free throws.
Murray had seven quick points and Wagner used a 7-0 run to take an early 11-8 lead.
Two blocked shots by UConn freshman Andre Drummond got the crowd into the game, but the Huskies led just 22-20 with 7:46 left in the first half. A couple of old-fashioned three-point plays stretched the lead to eight, and a 3-pointer by Lamb made it 35-23. That was part of a 20-8 run that sent UConn into halftime up 41-28.
The Huskies opened the lead to 18 early in the second half, before Wagner made its run.
''We just tried to fight back possession by possession,'' Murray said. ''We got it down to eight, right where we wanted to be.''
But Napier and Lamb took over, scoring the next nine Husky points and UConn stretched the lead back to 15. UConn held on from there, hitting eight free throws over the last 3:11.
The Huskies have not lost since the end of the 2010-11 regular season, after last spring's 11-0 run to their third national championship.
Freshman DeAndre Daniels had 11 points for UConn and Drummond, who did not score in the opener, added eight.
''In the first game, I was thinking too much about what I was going to do,'' Drummond said. ''I think I'm getting more rhythm now. I think we're coming together as a team.''
Napier played 35 minutes and Lamb all 40, running the point when Napier was resting. UConn is still without freshman point guard Ryan Boatright, who is awaiting an eligibility decision from the NCAA.
''I don't have any information except that I'm being told not to play him,'' coach Jim Calhoun said. ''We do need that other guy that can go by people.''
The last time UConn lost a regular-season game in Storrs before Jan. 1 was in 1973, a span of 101 games.
Wagner came in with a veteran team that returned all five starters from last season. The Seahawks have not beaten a ranked team since 1978, when they upset Alabama.