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UConn men beat Washington in non-conference finale

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published December 30. 2012 4:00AM
Fred Beckham/AP Photo
Tyler Olander of UConn, right, grabs a rebound from Desmond Simmons of Washington in the first half of Saturday night's game at the XL Center in Hartford. UConn won 61-53.

Hartford - An appreciative coach Kevin Ollie clapped for his hustling Huskies as they headed into a timeout with Saturday's non-conference game still in doubt.

The XL Center crowd also applauded UConn's energy and effort.

UConn's execution may have been on the sloppy side at times, but no one questioned its work rate.

The Huskies made winning plays in the final four minutes to hold off Washington, 61-53.

"I do like the excitement we had out there," Ollie said. "I do like the energy we played with. … We had a lot of emotion out there and it paid off with us getting a win. It wasn't a perfect game."

Gritty defense paved the way for the Huskies who limited Washington to 30 percent shooting. They also won the rebounding battle for only the second time this season, earning a 40-36 edge.

Inspired defense, rebounding and hustle helped the Huskies overcome 17 turnovers. Freshman Omar Calhoun had a team-high 14 points while fellow backcourt partners Shabazz Napier (13 points, eight rebounds) and Ryan Boatright (12 points) also scored in double figures.

The good news started before the game when UConn announced that Ollie had been given a new five-year contract worth roughly $7 million.

"It was a good day in my life," Ollie said.

With Ollie in charge, the Huskies have played hard every single game. They take a 10-2 overall record into the Big East Conference opener at Marquette on Tuesday.

The Huskies battled through a few bumpy stretches.

Forget about style points. They piled up the hustle points late in the game.

Clinging to a 50-45 lead, Calhoun hit a tough pull-up jumper and then junior Enosch Wolf took a charge in the lane on the other end.

Washington (8-5) attempted to press the Huskies.

That was a bad idea.

Calhoun threw an alley-oop to Wolf for a 56-45 lead with about two and a half minutes left, igniting another standing ovation.

Washington closed to within six (57-51) before Calhoun scored four straight points to ice the win.

Foul trouble plagued Washington. And its best player, C.J. Wilcox, who had scored 20 or more points in seven of the last eight games, finished with five points on 2-for-12 shooting.

"Shabazz did a remarkable job on him," Ollie said.

After taking a 31-26 lead at the break despite converting only one field goal in the final nine minutes, 38 seconds, the Huskies shot out of a cannon to start the second half. They scored the first seven points. Napier's 3-pointer handed them their first double digit lead, 38-26.

When Napier's nice pass set up Calhoun for a layup, UConn had a 44-30 advantage with 15:05 left.

This is when the Huskies lost control. Turnovers piled up and Washington cashed in, closing the gap to four (48-44).

UConn delivered several big plays down the stretch to win its fourth straight game and end Washington's winning streak at four. Wolf led the Huskies in rebounding with nine.

The Huskies extended their winning streak against Pac-12 programs to 13 in a row.

Ollie looks forward to his future at UConn.

"We're going to do things well and we're going to do things right…," Ollie said. "The standard of excellence that we have at this university is going to continue. We're not talking about wins and losses, we're talking about national championships; conference championships. That's what I signed up for. That's not going to stop; not under my watch."

g.keefe@theday.com

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