HARTFORD, Conn. — The University of Connecticut outscored the University of Maine 19-2 to open the second half Thursday night, turning a five-point lead into a comfortable advantage on its way to an 80-60 men’s basketball victory at the XL Center.
Coach Jim Calhoun’s fourth-ranked Huskies (3-0), the defending national champions, wore down the Black Bears with their superior frontcourt height, athleticism and overall depth.
“It was a heck of a challenge, but obviously a great experience for our guys,” said UMaine head coach Ted Woodward.
“I think they’re going to gain from it. They’re certainly going to learn from it,” he added.
UConn dominated inside, scoring 44 points in the paint and grabbing a 57-28 rebounding advantage behind Andre Drummond’s 14 boards, 11 of which came on the offensive end. The Huskies pulled down 34 offensive rebounds, which led to 33 second-chance points.
UMaine’s injury-thinned frontcourt, led by 6-foot-7 sophomore Alasdair Fraser (4 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocked shots), simply couldn’t match up over the long haul.
The Bears also were without sharpshooting senior guard Gerald McLemore, who reportedly sat out with a bruised knee.
“Gerald doesn’t have a major injury,” said Woodward, who said it was only the second game the San Diego native has missed in his UMaine career.
“I think it’s remarkable. He’s a tough kid, but he had a little muscle thing last week,” he said. “I expect he’ll be back soon.”
UMaine also was missing junior forward Mike Allison, senior forward Travon Wilcher, freshman guard Noam Laish and freshman forward Ethan Mackey.
Freshman guard Justin Edwards paced UMaine with 15 points on 7-for-15 shooting and contributed five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
“He played well,” Woodward said. “He scored a bunch of those points late in the second half, which we needed badly. He’s a guy that fills up the stat sheet.”
Senior guard Raheem Singleton provided nine points, four rebounds and three assists, while senior guard Andrew Rogers posted eight points and six assists. Freshman forward Kilian Cato added eight points, all in the first half.
UConn, which extended its Division I-best winning streak to 14 games, placed five players in double figures. That included 16 each from Alex Oriakhi (eight rebounds) and Jeremy Lamb (four assists, three steals).
DeAndre Daniels contributed 15 points and seven rebounds, Drummond tallied 11 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks and Tyler Olander added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Black Bears were very much in the game at halftime, trailing only 34-29.
That was in spite of the Huskies’ 30-13 rebounding edge, including 20 offensive boards.
“The first half, I thought we really executed very well,” Woodward said. “We didn’t turn the basketball over for points and we made some shots. I thought we did a solid job of attacking offensively and keeping the tempo where we wanted it.”
However, UConn changed those dynamics after the break.
The Huskies clamped down defensively, holding UMaine scoreless on its first 12 field-goal attempts. By the time Singleton scored on a layup with 9:35 left, UConn had extended its lead to 59-35.
The Huskies were able to get their transition game clicking, posting two dunks and two layups during the 23-4 surge.
“The second half, we missed some shots, their defense started pushing us out away from the basket and we made turnovers that they were able to convert into points,” Woodward said.
UMaine is off until it plays host to Holy Cross at 2 p.m. Nov. 27 at Alfond Arena.