MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (February 25, 2009) -- Senior A.J. Price (Amityville, N.Y.) scored a career-high 36 points in a fabulous performance as second-ranked Connecticut outlasted eighth-ranked Marquette, 93-82, and earned head coach Jim Calhoun his 800th career coaching victory before a crowd of 19,091 at the Bradley Center. The crowd is the largest ever to witness a college basketball game in the state of Wisconsin.
The Huskies improve to 26-2 with the win and remain in first place in BIG EAST play with a 14-2 record. The Golden Eagles' records drop to 23-5 overall and 12-3 in the conference.
The victory gave Calhoun his 800th win, against just 339 losses in 37 seasons of coaching. He is just the seventh coach in Division I history to reach the 800-win plateau.
Price was amazing all game, making 12-of-20 from the field, including eight-of-13 from three-point range. His eight makes from downtown also represented a career-high. Price added six assists and six rebounds for good measure.
Starting frontcourt mates juniors Hasheem Thabeet (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania) and Stanley Robinson (Birmingham, Ala.) each had double-doubles for the Huskies. Thabeet had 14 points (a perfect four-of-four from the field), had 15 rebounds and blocked five shots. Robinson, playing his best game of the season, finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
UConn led by seven with less than four minutes to play after a 10-0 run keyed by Robinson. Marquette scored the next five points to get back within five, 84-79, which is where things stood as the clock went under three minutes to go. After the teams traded turnovers, McNeal made a jumper in the lane with 2:30 to go to cut the deficit for Marquette to three. Price missed a runner in the lane, but Jeff Adrien (Brookline, Mass.) got the offensive board and was fouled. He made both with 2:05 left, making the score, 86-81. Matthews missed a hook at the other end and Price rebounded, allowing UConn to run the clock down another 35 seconds. Price hit the dagger three with 1:12 to go and UConn was back up by eight, 89-81. Another miss by Marquette was collected by Price and he made a pair at the other end to get the advantage to 10 points, 91-81, with 45 seconds left.
The second half featured an incredible seven-minute stretch of basketball that saw the lead change hands 13 times and also saw the score tied on three occasions. The Golden Eagles made 13 of their first 18 shots in the second half, but the Huskies dominated the boards and took advantage with their size advantage. The teams traded baskets for seven minutes, as neither team scored two straight hoops. The Huskies broke that string with an 8-0 run to open an 81-74 edge and force a Marquette timeout with 5:25 to play. Robinson picked up a loose ball, dunked and was fouled. He made the free throw to give UConn a 10-point edge, 84-74, with 4:28 left. Hayward made a three to break the run with just over four minutes left and the score was 84-77, UConn, with 3:45 left at the final media timeout of regulation.
The Huskies jumped out to a nine-point advantage to begin the second half, leading 48-39, but the Golden Eagles responded behind Jerel McNeal, scoring the next six points to force a UConn timeout with 16:54 left and the Husky lead at three, 48-45. UConn bounced back to jump back out by eight, 56-48, with 15:11 to play. The lead reached 11 points at 59-48 after Price hit his seventh three of the game, but the Golden Eagles again went on a run of their own, scoring the next 10 points and forcing another UConn timeout, during which Calhoun was issued a technical foul. Wesley Matthews hit two free throws to stretch the run to 12 straight points and give Marquette the lead, 60-59. Thabeet converted a layup the next time down to put the Huskies back ahead at 61-60 with 11:37 to play.
UConn led by a score of 43-37 after a first half of runs by both squads. Marquette went on a 16-3 run to take a 28-22 lead, but the Huskies responded with a 16-0 burst of their own, holding the Golden Eagles without a point for nearly six minutes. Price led all scorers with 16 points and also added six assists in the first half. The Huskies shot 55.2-percent from the field in the half and held Marquette to 33.3-percent. The Golden Eagles made six-of-10 three's to offset their cold shooting, while the Huskies made an uncharacteristic six-of-11 from long range.
McNeal finished had 26 points for the Golden Eagles, while Matthews finished with 20.
UConn returns to action Saturday, February 28 when it hosts the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. The day will feature Senior Day festivities beginning at approximately 1:35 p.m. with the contest slated to be televised nationally by CBS beginning at 2:00 p.m.
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