— Junior Hasheem Thabeet
(Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) scored 19 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked seven shots to lead the No. 2-ranked University of Connecticut men’s basketball team to a 76-63 win over No. 17 University of Miami Sunday night in the semifinals of the 2008 Paradise Jam at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center.
With the win, UConn advances to the tournament championship game Monday night at 8:30 p.m. eastern time against the winner of the second semifinal between San Diego and No. 25 Wisconsin.
Joining Thabeet in double figures for the Huskies on the night was senior A.J. Price (Amityville, N.Y.), who had 13 points, 11 rebounds and five assists on the evening. Junior Jerome Dyson (Rockville, Md.) had 12 points and freshman Kemba Walker (Bronx, N.Y.) added 11.
Jack McClinton led the Hurricanes with 27 points, including five of eight shooting from three-point range.
UConn led 69-52 with 7:30 to go in the contest, but the Hurricanes scored the next nine points to get within eight points, 69-61, with 3:49 left to go. Austrie made a free throw to break the string, but McClinton made a layup at the other end to get the Canes to within seven, 70-63, with 2:36 to play. Price was called for a charge on offense but McClinton missed the front end of a one-and-one with less than two minutes to go. Dyson was fouled going to the hoop and made both free throws with 1:32 to play and extend the lead back to nine, 72-63.
The Huskies came out strong to start the second half and extended their eight-point advantage back up to a 15-point lead in the first seven minutes of the stanza. The Canes responded to get the deficit back into single digits, but Thabeet again made the big plays, converting back-to-back conventional three-point plays to put UConn back up, 64-51, with under ten minutes left in the contest. Thabeet then made a spin move and bank shot, followed by a Price steal and layup and the Husky lead was back to 17 points at 69-52 with 7:30 left in the contest.
UConn led 39-31 at intermission after a first half of runs by both teams. The Huskies jumped out to a 24-7 advantage after ten minutes thanks to a 16-0 scoring run that saw Miami miss 18 consecutive field goal attempts and go nine minutes without scoring. The lead was 33-14 with 6:52 left in the half when the Hurricanes responded with a 17-2 burst of their own to get within four points, 35-31, in the final two minutes of the half. The Huskies scored the last two buckets of the half to hold the eight-point advantage. Thabeet dominated the first ten minutes of the game, blocking four Miami shots and adding six points and five rebounds. The Huskies battled foul trouble in the half, with Jerome Dyson and Thabeet both spending time on the bench with two fouls each. The Huskies shot 55.2% from the floor for the half, while Miami hit on 33.3%. Jack McClinton kept Miami in the game by hitting for 15 points in the stanza.