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Bulls hit a brick wall in UConn men

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published February 13. 2014 4:00AM
Huskies allow fewest points since 2011

Hartford - UConn coach Kevin Ollie keeps telling his players to bring their locks come game day.

He's referring to the Huskies playing lock-down defense.

Judging from their latest results, they've been listening.

No. 24 UConn completely shut down South Florida while cruising to its most lopsided American Athletic Conference victory, posting an 83-40 win at the XL Center.

The Huskies allowed their lowest point total since beating Holy Cross (77-40) on Dec. 18, 2011.

"Our defense has been great," Ollie said. "The last four games, we've been holding guys to a combined 33 percent. We've just got to keep this up."

I want to keep this momentum going. I want to make sure we play defense. I just tell the guys to bring their locks. That's kind of our motto right now - bring out locks. We want to be on lock-down defense. Hopefully, guys are buying in."

UConn (19-5, 7-4) is riding a hot streak, winning eight of its last 10 games. Next up is an important AAC game against No. 20 Memphis on Saturday in Hartford.

For the second straight game, the Huskies faced a team residing in the bottom half of the conference standings. They played without reserves Omar Calhoun (concussion) and Tyler Olander (flu).

Up until Wednesday, South Florida had played well on the road, posting a winning road (5-3). But the Bulls never put up a fight while losing for the seventh time in nine games to fall to 12-13, 3-9.

The Huskies set the tone in the opening minutes, as freshman Amida Brimah blocked two shots. The Bulls converted just four field goals in the first half and shot 24 percent (12-for-50) overall from the field.

UConn ran an unselfish attack, finding open shooters and setting up alley-oops while shooting 53 percent. The Huskies assisted on 24 of 28 baskets.

Everyone joined the party, as 12 different players scored. Junior DeAndre Daniels (12 points) and freshman Kentan Facey (a career-best 10) were the only Huskies to hit double figures.

"It was just a great team effort," Daniels said.

In a revealing statistic, UConn's reserves had more points (42) than South Florida.

"Everybody stepped on the court got a basket," Ollie said. "I think that's amazing."

The Huskies built a 45-14 halftime lead despite playing the last seven and a half minutes without the starting backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright who got in foul trouble.

Leading 26-7 when Boatright joined Napier on the bench, the Huskies continued their demolition while rolling to their largest halftime lead this season.

Freshman Terrence Samuel (a career-high eight points) and versatile Lasan Kromah took over the backcourt duties, and the Huskies kept scoring, extending their run to 16-0.

"We didn't lose any rhythm with our best two players on the bench with two fouls," Ollie said. "I just thought Terrence did an amazing job."

What a valuable asset the versatile Kromah has become this season. He smoothly shifted to the backcourt and finished with a season high for assists with seven.

Kromah knocked away the ball and converted the steal into a breakaway dunk for a 31-point lead at halftime.

"There was a lot of energy out there," Kromah said. "Guys were having fun just playing basketball."

Facey, who had seen limited action while appearing in 14 games, earned rave reviews for his play. He made his first shot and even fired in his first career 3-pointer in the second half.

"I just want to go out there and prove that I'm getting better every day," Facey said.

Boatright reached a milestone, scoring his 1,000 career point, and Napier moved into 10th place on the school's all-time scoring list. Walk-on Pat Lenehan also scored his first points of the season.

All five starters played no more than 25 minutes, so they should be rested the big game against Memphis.

g.keefe@theday.com

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