—Hasheem Thabeet (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania) pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds in the No. 2 University of Connecticut men’s basketball team's 68-64 victory over Buffalo at Alumni Arena on Thursday night. The Huskies (8-0) remain undefeated winning the game by the narrowest scoring margin this season. Rodney Pierce led the Bulls on the night with 28 points, including 17 in the first half.
Thabeet scored 21 points for his fifth double-double of the season while Jeff Adrien (Brookline, Mass.) shot 7-for-11 from the field to finish the night with 18 points against the Bulls.
Buffalo cut a seven-point deficit to two in the final three minutes and forced Kemba Walker (Bronx, N.Y.) to travel with 37.3 seconds left in the game and UConn leading, 66-64. The Bulls inbounded the ball and A.J. Price (Amityville, N.Y.) missed a layup with 20 seconds to play, but got his own rebound and called timeout. Pierce drove the lane and was stripped by Thabeet and Walker, who was then fouled. Walker made both to secure the win.
UConn led by seven, 63-56, at the final media timeout of regulation with 3:32 to play, but Buffalo rallied to force a frantic finish. Calvin Betts drove the lane for a bucket to make it 63-58 and Jerome Dyson (Rockville, Md.) followed with a missed three at the other end. Max Boudreau made a shot at the other end to make it a three-point game, but Adrien poured in a dunk in traffic. Thabeet then blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound to stop UB’s next possession. He was fouled and went to the line, making the second to make the score, 66-60, with under 1:30 to go in the game. Pierce then made two free throws at the other end to make it 66-62 with 1:15 to go in the contest. UConn held the ball on its next possession and Dyson missed a runner. The Bulls were fouled on the rebound and Pierce went to the line again, making both and the UConn lead was two, 66-64, with 40.6 seconds left in the game.
The Huskies led 59-53 with less than six to play in the contest, but Pierce made a three from the top of the key to get Buffalo back to within three points. The teams traded misses at each end before Adrien fed Thabeet for an emphatic dunk. Thabeet missed the free throw for the “and one”, but Walker got the rebound and Thabeet followed a Dyson miss to make the score, 63-56, with under four minutes to go in the contest.
UConn led 54-51, matching the biggest lead of the contest for the Huskies to that point, after a Dyson steal and layup with less than nine minutes to go in the contest, but the Bulls again responded, cutting the deficit to one. It was 54-53, UConn, with 6:32 to go, when Thabeet fed Craig Austrie (Stamford, Conn.) for a three from the top of the key and it was a four-point lead with six minutes to play after a subsequent Buffalo turnover. Thabeet was fouled at the hoop on the next possession with 5:58 to play and made both, making it 59-53 after an 11-2 Husky run.
Buffalo led 47-46 with less than 12 minutes left in the contest. Pierce went to the line for the Bulls for a pair of free throws with 11:55 to play and made both to extend the Husky deficit to three, 49-46. With 11:23 to play, Thabeet hit both ends of the one-and-one to get the Huskies back within one. Adrien made back-to-back buckets for the Huskies with the deficit at three, which put the Huskies back in front, 52-51, with less than ten minutes to go in regulation.
The second half saw UConn jump out by three in the first two minutes, its largest lead of the game to that point. But the Huskies could not take advantage of two lane violations by the Bulls with Adrien at the line to extend that lead to four and UB immediately retook the lead, 41-40, after a layup and a pair of free throws. The lead changed hands four times in the first five minutes of the second half. The Huskies capped the first six minutes with a Austrie three and a Walker free throw to take a 46-45 lead with 12:57 left in the game. UB immediately came back to the other end with a put-back layup and the lead changed for the sixth time in the half. Walker was fouled again at the UConn end, but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
The game was tied, 32-32, at halftime after Pierce banked in a runner with three seconds to play. Thabeet had given UConn a 32-30 lead, its biggest of the half, when he converted a conventional three-point play with 1:11 left in the first. The Bulls led by as many as eight points in the stanza, 24-16, with less than ten minutes to play in the half. The Huskies followed with a 9-0 run to retake the lead at 25-24 with just over six minutes left. UConn turned the ball over six times in the first eight minutes of the contest, but rebounded to go without a turnover for the remainder of the half, allowing them to get back into the contest. Thabeet was immense for the Huskies in the half, scoring 12 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking two shots. Pierce hit his first seven shots from the field and scored 17 points in the first half to lead all scorers.
The Huskies return to action after a ten-day break for finals on Monday, December 15 when they host Stony Brook at the XL Center. Game time for the contest with the Sea Wolves is 7:00 p.m. and the contest will be televised in Connecticut by MyTV9 and also broadcast on the UConn Radio Network, anchored by WTIC-AM 1080.