UConn Outlasts WVU
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
February 22, 2010
HARTFORD, Conn. - Kemba Walker scored 21 points and Jerome Dyson added 17 to lead Connecticut to a 73-62 victory over seventh-ranked West Virginia Monday night at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
Connecticut (17-11, 7-8) has now won three straight and the win tonight gives UConn's NCAA tournament aspirations a big boost.
"It wasn't our best effort," said a disappointed West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "We're not doing very well on these Big Monday games."
West Virginia (21-6, 10-5) was looking to keep pace with league leader Syracuse, but now with five league losses the best the Mountaineers can hope for is a top-four finish to get one of the four byes in the Big East tournament.
Pitt has now taken over sole possession of third place with its win against Villanova Sunday afternoon, and Louisville is ½-game behind West Virginia for fourth place with a game tomorrow night against Georgetown.
With the exception of an early 5-0 lead, West Virginia trailed the entire game. UConn coach Jim Calhoun drew a technical foul 47 seconds into the contest and it wound up igniting his team, the Huskies scoring nine straight points.
Butler had a chance to give West Virginia an early 7-0 lead, but missed both technical free throws, a foreshadowing of the free throwing shooting woes to come for WVU.
The game essentially came down to a free throw shooting contest and Connecticut was the much better team at the line tonight. The Huskies finished 30 of 42 from the charity stripe while the Mountaineers were only 12 of 23.
"That's just awful," said Huggins of his team's free throw shooting. The Mountaineers have missed a combined 37 free throws in recent Big East losses to Connecticut, Pitt and Villanova. "When you are 4 for 18 from 3 and 12 for 23 from the foul line you are not going to win."
Connecticut led by as many as 15 points midway through the first half, but the Mountaineers battled back to make it a nine-point deficit at halftime.
Huggins went deeper on his bench than usual, playing freshman Danny Jennings and backup guard Casey Mitchell for a long stretch in the first half. In all, Huggins used 11 different players tonight.
"I thought Danny came in and gave us good minutes early," said Huggins.
At the start of the second half West Virginia got back-to-back baskets to make it a six-point game.
A Devin Ebanks dunk and a Da'Sean Butler free throw made it 46-42, UConn, and then Alex Oriakhi was called for goal tending on a Kevin Jones follow up to make it a one possession game.
With 8:44 left West Virginia got it to one, 53-52, when Ebanks put back his own miss, forcing Calhoun to call timeout. When play resumed, Calhoun instructed his team to go to the basket and Stanley Robinson responded by putting back Oriakhi's miss.
Later, Robinson made a huge 3 with 6:14 left when West Virginia went into a 1-3-1 zone defense to give Connecticut a 61-56 lead. The next time down the floor, Walker got to the free throw line to turn it into a seven-point game.
"All of the sudden a three-point game goes to (seven) in three possessions and we only had the ball once," said Huggins.
Robinson put an exclamation on an outstanding night with a follow up dunk of a Jerome Dyson miss to give the Huskies a six-point lead with 1:02 remaining.
Walker then stole Ebanks' pass and threw down a dunk to make it 70-62. An upset Huggins called timeout and was called for back-to-back technical fouls, leaving the floor with 45.2 seconds remaining.
"We couldn't guard them," said Huggins.
Robinson had 15 points and 13 rebounds while Gavin Edwards added 11 points before fouling out.
"Their size bothered us a little bit inside," said Huggins.
Ebanks scored 17 points and Jones added 12 for WVU. West Virginia's leading scorer, Da'Sean Butler, finished the night with 9 points, eight below his season average.
The Mountaineers are now winless in eight tries at Connecticut (0-3 in games played in Hartford and 0-5 in games played in Storrs) since joining the Big East in 1996.
"I'm usually pretty irate when we lose because I detest losing," said Huggins. "But I'm hurt because I know what this means to the people in our state being able to pump their chest out a little bit and say, 'That's my team.' But it's not over with - and we certainly can't let it be over with."
West Virginia returns home to face Cincinnati Saturday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m.
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