By Dom Amore, The Hartford Courant
SEATTLE – The UConn men’s basketball team made a few changes, struggled for a time, but recaptured its identity and swagger and came from behind to beat Washington 82-70 Sunday at the Alaska Airlines Arena.
Shabazz Napier scored 20 to lead UConn (10-1), which had to find its way back from its first loss of the season, and back from a 14-point deficit in the first half against Washington (6-5). Ryan Boatright scored 16, Lasan Kromah, playing a larger had 14 and DeAndre Daniels 10 for UConn, which played an aggressive defensive game and held its own on the boards, with a 29-to-27 edge.
Trailing 31-17 with 7:03 left in the first half, UConn outscored Washington 26-8 to take a halftime lead, and controlled the game in the second half, extending its lead to 14 and preventing a Washington run.
UConn lost to Stanford, 53-51, on Wednesday, hitting 5 of 31 shots in the second half. They started this game slowly, too, missing their first six three-point shots. But they ultimately found the key to beating Washington’s zone defense, which was installed on the Stanford model. UConn shot 56 percent from the floor, 4 for 12 on limited three-point attempts.
Coach Kevin Ollie tweaked his starting lineup, giving freshman Amida Brimah his first start at center, replacing Phil Nolan. On UConn’s first possession, Shabazz Napier got the ball inside against Washington’s zone, and Brimah dunked it.
But Washington, which usually plays man-to-man defense, did install an effective zone, continuing what Stanford did to UConn last Wednesday. UConn started out slowly, making 3 of its first 10 shots from the floor, and none of its first six threes. Washington’s brawnier front court had a 9-to-4 edge in rebounds and built a 31-17 lead, after C.J. Wilcox made a three-pointer with 7:03 to go in the half.
UConn quickly struck back from its largest deficit of the season. Brimah got free for a lay-up to begin a 15-2 spurt. Niels Giffey made a three, ending UConn’s string of 18 consecutive misses.
Ryan Boatright made a three to tie the game at 35 with 3:32 to play, and UConn finished the half shooting 51.6 percent from the floor, with a 43-39 lead – a 17 to 15 edge in rebounds.
Nolan came off the bench and had one of his most productive games, getting eight points and five rebounds.
Wilcox scored 19, Mike Anderson, from Weaver-Hartford, had 10 points and seven rebounds for Washington.