– Guards Craig Austrie (Stamford, Conn.) and Kemba Walker (Bronx, N.Y.) each scored 21 points as second-ranked Connecticut blew open a close game and routed Hartford, 99-56, Monday evening in men’s basketball before a crowd of 11,849 at the XL Center.
The Huskies are now 2-0 on the young campaign, while the Hawks drop to 0-2.
Connecticut led 41-32 at intermission, but Hartford went on a 12-4 run to start the second half and inched to within one, at 45-44 on a jumper by Kevin Estes with 16:39 to play. But the Huskies responded with back-to-back jumpers by Austrie and were on a run that would eventually conclude the contest with the Huskies outscoring the Hawks 54-12.
Austrie set a career-high with his 21 points, and scored 11 before halftime when the Huskies struggled offensively. Walker, who broke the 20-point barrier in just his second collegiate game, scored 16 of his points in the second half, keying the finishing burst with several pretty assists and key baskets. Walker added five rebounds, while Austrie, one of the nation’s leading free throw shooters last year, made 10 of 11 from the charity stripe.
Jerome Dyson (Rockville, Md.) had a second consecutive solid game for the Huskies, scoring 18 points and dishing out four assists. Senior power forward Jeff Adrien (Brookline, Mass.) registered the 34th double-double of his career with 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. He struggled from the line (making four of nine), but was the key cog as the Huskies out-rebounded the Hawks, 47-32.
Junior center Hasheem Thabeet (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania) was limited to just 22 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble, but still scored nine points, had eight rebounds and blocked two shots for the Huskies. Connecticut received a jolt of adrenaline from sophomore guard Donnell Beverly (Hawthorne, Calif.) who previously had a career-high of three points. He scored nine points in a career-best 18 minutes of playing time. He scored all of his points in the first half when the Husky offense most missed All-America guard A.J. Price (Amityville, N.Y.), who missed the contest with a sprained ankle.
The Huskies shot 60 percent from the field in the second half, making 18 of 30 offerings. Connecticut committed just four turnovers against 14 assists, while the Huskies enjoyed a 23-6 advantage in second chance points.
Morgan Sabia led the Hawks with 15 points. Hartford was held to just 35 percent shooting on the contest.
The Huskies will take to the road for the first time this season when they venture to Charlotte Amalle. St. Thomas for the 2008 US Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. The Huskies will play LaSalle on Friday, November 21 at 6:00 p.m. The contest will be televised by MyTV9.
POST GAME QUOTES
Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun
Dan certainly did a good job with his team, keeping them in the game until we were ready to explode in the second half….I think what Dan can take away is not the score – because I’ve been in the other seat at times, when I was at Northeastern, particularly – is the fact of how his kids competed. Then they ran out of bodies and ran out of size, which we obviously do have. And quickness. But I thought they competed very, very hard. They were in the game until there were 13 minutes to go, and then we exploded.
We wore them out with numbers, then wore them out with the fast break.
On Austrie-- We didn’t respond well, except probably for one guy, and that’s Craig Austrie….Craig Austrie looked like a senior….We need to bring focus. Right now, particularly, without much size….They’ve got to approach it in a whole different kind of manner – like the way Craig Austrie approached it. That’s why it’s so great to have seniors….It’s great to have guys who have been there….I can’t over-praise what Craig Austrie meant to us. He never changed expression, and instead of casting up threes he stepped into gaps and made the 15-footer, and that was just fine. And that kind of got the team going a little bit.
On Adrien-- Jeff played terrific defense and rebounded very well.
On Beverly-- I thought Donnell did a nice job coming off the bench and was really solid for us.
These are the games, sometimes, where guys can make cases.
On Price-- The decision really was, do we take a chance on having that high-ankle sprain get worse for the three games coming up. And I felt at no time was it worth it.
Hartford Head Coach Dan Leibovitz
I want to start off by giving credit to UConn and their coaching staff for being very well prepared. They’re a very good basketball team. They put stress on you at both ends of the floor. They’re physical. They’re fast. They’re deep.
I thought we fought a pretty good fight for as long as we could. But there was a breaking point there where we lost poise and we kind of undid ourselves.
UConn clearly capitalized on every mistake that we made.
We tried to be physical, we tried to be scrappy. And it’s really our only chance in a game like this when we’re so outmatched physically. And the game was officiated in a manner where it was hard for us to survive.
I think it’s a team that has a chance to have a great year. I think they’re playing at a high level defensively.
I just wanted to have composure out there. We were down one man, A.J. who’s usually our general. I just wanted to take A.J.’s role, help the freshmen out, and do what I can to help this team.
At the beginning of the game, I was reading the game to see what was open. As the game went on, I saw the middle wide open. I wanted to penetrate and get the little 15 foot jump shot going.
Were you concerned after Hartford pulled within one at the beginning of the 2nd half?-- I wasn’t concerned. I was composed out there. I was just trying to get my guys composed. They made their run and we withstood that run and did our thing. We’re the number two team in the country and we have to expect things like that. We’re only going to grow from things like that.
On scoring on mid-range jumpshots-- It’s all about touch. It’s really a lost art. It’s really a deadly shot – the middle’s always open.
On the first half-- It was rough for us. It seemed like the ball couldn’t get into the basket for us. We just had to will it in for us.
On the second half run-- It was kind of the way we wanted to play the whole game but we couldn’t get it going at the beginning. We got it going in the second half.
On Craig Austrie-- He kept us in the game. He made shots when everybody else was making shots.
On Kemba Walker-- He’s playing good. He’s pushing the ball well which Coach likes and everyone else likes. The more he pushes the ball the more opportunities for everyone else to get open. And he’s coming out and making open shots for us.
On Hartford-- They didn’t want to go away. They played hard through every possession.
The guards struggled in the first half. My confidence level has increased. Playing with these guys every day has really got my confidence up.
On being a better game player than practice player I seem to hit more shots in games. It just seems to be something I’ve always done
Donnell Beverly On his confidence level Confidence is big. I try to give the team a little extra energy. I was really confident once I scored my first bucket.
I tried to be aggressive. When I’m tentative that’s when I mess up.
On Craig Austrie’s performance-- He was a freshman on a team that started 11-0. Craig’s has been in games like this. We were just following him really.
We kept our composure. I thought it was a good idea that Coach didn’t call a time-out when they made their run. We just fought through it.