Given the halftime score of 36-31 in favor of the UConn Huskies over the Maine Black Bears, one might have thought the team from Orono, Maine was going to make this a good ballgame for 40 minutes.
But whatever UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said to his charges at halftime worked because we saw the finest half of defensive basketball from the Huskies in their brief three game season.
Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi both had 16 points to led the Huskies to a 80-60 win over the Black Bears in front of 10,726 at the XL Center in Hartford, CT on Thursday night.
It’s the Huskies 14th straight win as they improve to 3-0 on the season. The Black Bears, led by former UConn assistant Ted Woodward, fall to 1-1 on the young season.
Lamb had a rough shooting night (6-16) including 0-5 from three to get his 16 points. On the other hand, Oriakhi was 7-of-11 from the floor while pulling down eight rebounds. Freshman DeAndre Daniels had another fine game as he finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Andre Drummond had his best game of his young career with his first double-double. He had 11 points and a team-high 14 rebounds along with four blocked shots. Tyler Olander’s improved play also led to his first career double-double as he had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Justin Edwards led the way for Maine with a game-high 20 points and had five rebounds. He was their only player in double digits as Raheem Singleton had nine points with Kilian Cato and Andrew Rogers chipping in with eight apiece.
The Huskies got out of the gates quickly as they raced out a 7-0 lead. That lead quickly evaporated though as the Black Bears responded with a 7-0 run of their own. With the score tied at 12, Daniels had a 5-0 run by himself before Maine once again tied it up. The biggest UConn’s lead would get was seven points and their halftime lead was five at 36-21.
It wasn’t the greatest of defensive efforts in the first half but as I said above, it was totally different in the second half.
UConn tightened up their defense and that led to a 23-2 run to start the second half to bust this game wide open. Those two points for Maine came on two free throws from Edwards. Their first basket of the second half didn’t come until there was 9:24 left in the game but by that point it was a little too late for the Black Bears.
I had said to myself at halftime that this team lacked the killer instinct that Kemba Walker instilled in them. Obviously they showed it in the second half but if they could have done that when they would go on runs in the first half, they probably wouldn’t have been berated by Calhoun.
This is the third straight game I’ve said this but I’m impressed with the play of Daniels. You can tell he has a high basketball IQ and a complete all around game. Sure he made some mistakes but those are correctable. If he can continue this, he’ll be a nice third option after Lamb and Shabazz Napier.
Drummond is also showing he’s the real deal. You can tell he’s getting more and more comfortable with the flow of the college game and I think it’s only a matter of time before he bumps Oriakhi from the starting five.
For now, the Huskies get to rest for a few days. They’ll be back in action on Sunday when they’ll host the Coppin State Eagles at 1 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford, CT.
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Notes and musings:
Here are the postgame quotes from UConn head coach Jim Calhoun and Maine Black Bears head coach Ted Woodward as well as some of the UConn players.
For the first time this season, we saw a different starting lineup. It was Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb, DeAndre Daniels, Tyler Olander and Alex Oriakhi.
The Huskies haven’t lost a non-conference game at home since January 2007 against Indiana in Hartford. The game was the 300th for UConn at its off-campus home court in Hartford. The Huskies improved to 219-81 in games at what is now the XL Center.
The win moved Jim Calhoun into a temporary tie for sixth place on the all-time list with friend Jim Boeheim, who could reclaim the spot on Saturday, when No. 5 Syracuse plays Colgate.
Calhoun is now 15-0 against teams coached by one of his former assistants.
UConn shot 41.7% (30-72) from the floor while Maine shot 35.5% (22-62).
The Huskies had 12 assists on their 30 made baskets.
UConn was awful from threes as they were 5-of-23 (21.7%).
They weren’t much better from the charity stripe either as they were 15-of-24 (62.5%).
The Huskies dominated the glass outrebounding Maine 57-28. The Huskies actually had 34 offensive rebounds which was more than Maine had for the game.
UConn had 22 points off of 14 Maine turnovers. The Black Bears had 23 points off of 17 UConn turnovers.
The Huskies outscored Maine 44-24 in the paint.
UConn 33 second chance points to 12 for the Black Bears. They also outscored Maine 9-8 on the fast break.
Photo credit: Mark Mirko – Hartford Courant (No. 4 in gallery)