Huskies Overpower No. 6 Oklahoma, 86-59



    STORRS, CT (January 11, 2004) -- Junior center Emeka Okafor narrowly missed his second career triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocked shots to lead top-ranked Connecticut to an easy 86-59 rout over sixth-ranked and previously unbeaten Oklahoma before a raucous sellout crowd of 10,167 at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion Sunday afternoon.

    The win, UConn’s 10th-consecutive success, improves the Husky record to 13-1 on the season. The Sooners drop to 10-1.

    It did not take long for the Huskies to wrestle control of the contest, scoring 10 consecutive points to overcome an early 7-5 deficit to notch a 15-7 lead 6:49 into the contest. After Oklahoma’s Jaison Williams hit a three-pointer, the Huskies went on a 19-2 run to level the knockout blow to Oklahoma. Okafor and sophomore Rashad Anderson each scored eight points in the two key runs and UConn was in its way. UConn led by as many as 40 points in the second half.

    Okafor was clearly the most dominant player on the floor. He was able to record the 38th double-double of his career, and was just one blocked shot short of registering his second career triple-double, which he previously tallied against Army. He had plenty of company among his teammates who had solid outings. Anderson had his most effective game of the season, scoring 13 points, grabbing a career-high tying six rebounds, and playing excellent defense in helping the Huskies hold the Sooners to just 27% (20 of 73) shooting. UConn had five players who scored at least 10 points with Denham Brown scoring 14, and Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, who each scored 11 points. It was the seventh time in eight career starts that Villanueva scored in double digits.

    UConn did many things well throughout the game, amassing 27 assists on 34 made field goals and out-rebounding their rugged opponent, 50-37. Taliek Brown and Gordon were the most charitable Huskies with eight and seven helpers. Taliek Brown also had a career-high five steals.

    UConn shot 52% (34 of 65) from the field, and made nine three-pointers in 21 attempts.

    Drew Lavender led Oklahoma with 22 points, while Jason Detrick chipped in with 16 points.

    The Huskies will return to the friendly confines of Gampel Pavilion on Wednesday, January 14, when they play host to Georgetown. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. and WTXX will televise the game locally.

    UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun

    This season, there have been moments and minutes where we have shown not our best side. Tonight, we showed our best side….From a coaching staff standpoint, and from a playing standpoint, we showed an awful lot of the wares we have tonight – the things that we can do.

    We just came off two really tough games and won one by one point, and we show up anxious, at home, a national game, etc., and Kelvin’s team comes off games against Prairie View and Princeton – two different teams, physically. And our kids put forward a focused effort. I thought it was one of the smartest games we’ve played. We turned it over a few too many times because we were looking for a few too many home runs, but beyond that, we were just really, really good. We were great on the defensive end.

    One of the officials just said to me that is as good a defense that he’s seen all year, and I would concur. It’s far and away the best defense we’ve played….That’s as close to a 40-minute performance, and as good, at this point in the season, as we can play.

    There are signs tonight, and there are things tonight that excited us and made us feel really good about our basketball team, and something to really build on, not necessarily to rest upon and say “OK, we’re really there.” The season has twists and turns and teams have ups and downs.

    We saw flashes tonight. Minutes, moments and, quite frankly, close to game that a team can have to being good – exceptionally good. Hopefully, we can take this and build on it and understand it what got us there. What got us there is our defense, which sets up our fast break, which, in turn, sets up everything else for us.

    On Oklahoma
    Kelvin is still, at times, struggling with his offense. Lavender is not going to see a veteran like Taliek Brown play defense on him quite like that, and he runs their show. They’re a very good team. We were, at times, a brilliant team.

    Taliek Brown
    On feeling of payback
    Definitely. I think we really showed up and paid them back this game right here for the two games we had lost in the past.

    On touches to the big guys
    Emeka and all of the big guys played real solid for us today.

    Intensity on Defense
    Today was like the best we have ever played defense we played it the whole game, 40 minutes, it was just working, working, working and we never gave up. We just kept the pressure on.

    We had to prove something to ourselves just to show who we are, and find out who we are as a team. Today we found out that we are a great team if we are all on the same page. It was wonderful.

    On game at Rutgers
    It gave us a little bit more toughness. We came into the game today real tough, real hyped up. We wanted this win real bad to show everybody that we are not a fluke team, we are real serious about being #1 and we’re trying be #1 and win everything.

    On if this is the best he has felt physically
    Definitely. I’m doing a lot of rehab. My hip has been bothering me a little still, but it is feeling good now.

    On the bigness of this game
    It was a big CBS game…everyone was watching it, it was just to show the world that we are real serious about it. We are bringing a lot of effort and a lot of intensity to the game. We are trying to do a lot this year.

    Emeka Okafor
    On if the key was to jump on them early
    I think so, we just wanted to jump on them as quickly as possible and never get off. We went out there fired up and played our hardest.

    On what has changed to make defense better
    We’ve had time to jell and mesh together and to know how to react to each other. This is the best defense we’ve played this year.

    On the play of the bench
    It is just going to get better as games go by.

    On if he can play better

    Of course, I only had 10 rebounds. I definitely could had grabbed more rebounds.

    Rashad Anderson
    We just wanted to come out today and beat a good Oklahoma team .

    On how he has improved
    Extra work in the gym…staying after practices, running, shooting the ball more…everything…just keep working.

    On if he was frustrated during his slump
    Nah. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in the hole for some reason, and you just have to keep working.

    On why his defense has improved
    Guarding Ben Gordon every day. He is a pro. He is a great player, an All-American. Just guarding him every day makes me a lot better.

    Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson
    I’m disappointed. They are good. They may be as good as anyone we’ve played in 10 years too. We played Maryland the year they won it, and our league has been so good the last few years. Their team speed is…until you see them up close and personal you don’t know how fast they are…they are fast. The last couple of years we beat them, the shoe was on the other foot. We were fast and we had seniors…guys that were good players that had a clear understanding of how we were going to win the game. I remember when Okafor and Gordon were freshman…they are not freshman anymore…they’re good. I like their team because they all kind of fit. Taliek Brown is not going to beat you from behind the line…and he doesn’t try to. Okafor is the star but doesn’t play like it. He plays every game like it is his last game…and I respect that. He plays really hard. It is something that I hope our young kids learn about basketball tonight is that getting to play is not a birthright…it is a privilege…you get an opportunity to play this game you should appreciate it and play it as hard as you can. Okafor plays it the right way. Gordon…the game comes easy to him…basketball is not hard to him. It doesn’t come easy to everybody..it really comes easy to him. Jim’s got a good job of putting this team together with periphery players…The Anderson kid, he doesn’t have to do a lot, just has to make open 3’s. Denham Brown kid, same thing. They are a team that you don’t have to far out on the limb to say that team can win it.

    Closest thing that we play to Connecticut in our league is probably Kansas in the last couple years because they are a great transition team. And they impose their transition game on you. Connecticut was just shoving it down our throats…and we were missing shots. They got a little confidence. For a while there we were doing a decent job, but then it started getting away from us, and that’s where inexperience on the road bites you more than others. If you have a bunch of senior and juniors out there they can calm each other down we got a little spooked and it got away from us. Give Connecticut a lot of credit. We weren’t very good tonight, it wasn’t really pretty on our side, but Connecticut was awful good.

    Oklahoma’s Jason Detrick
    There was a little bit of both, we were missing shots we should have made but as well they were playing good defense. We should have made the extra pass…like we should have. I forced a couple of shots up there that I maybe could have dumped down. They played pretty good defense on us that created some of those misses. But we had some easy ones that we should have made around the basket.

    They were just forcing us to the hole and we were going all of the way instead of jump stopping and making the extra play. We were trying to shoot over Emeka or Josh Boone or Villanueva. Instead of trying to make the extra pass they were baiting us in there and we were all falling for it.