By Dom Amore, The Hartford Courant
The Huskies did, and it included something just as important – their “I Game,” as in inside game.
For the first time this year, the Huskies got real production from their big men – freshman Amida Brimah leading the way with 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in 20 minutes – and they defeated UCF, 84-61 before 9,561 at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday night.
UConn (13-3) got its first win in the American Athletic Conference, after starting 0-2 in conference play. They play the league’s heavyweights, Memphis and Louisville, next week.
Phil Nolan, who split the center position with Brimah, had eight points, five rebounds in 15 minutes. The inside game has been UConn’s missing piece most of the season, and its emergence came against a fairly big, brawny opposing front court. UConn outrebounded the Knights 50-34, and had 14 blocks to UCF’s two.
Shabazz Napier had 14 points and 11 assists, DeAndre Daniels had 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks and Ryan Boatright had 11 points and seven rebounds. The Huskies defense limited Isaiah Sykes, UCF’s top player, to 17 points, much of it late in the game.
UCF started off with the first six points of the game, before UConn started hitting open shots. DeAndre Daniels hit a couple of three-point goals to tie it, and the Huskies were off and running.
The most exciting first-half development for the Huskies was the emergence of an inside game. Amida Brimah went 5 for 5 from the floor, and Phil Nolan 2 for 2, and the Huskies blocked seven shots and outrebounded the Knights 24-15 in the half.
UConn put together a 22-7 run to take control of the game, Nolan’s dunk with 11:48 to go giving them a 22-13 lead. The Huskies defense was smothering UCF’s attack – the Knights’ top player, Isaiah Sykes was 2 for 5 in the half and the team was 9 for 30. UConn, though missing a number of open shots – especially threes, going 3 for 11 -stretched its lead to 11 points, 35-24, at the break.
UCF (9-5) started the second half with an 8-1 run, and stayed within single digits much of the rest of the way. The Huskies continue to struggle from the floor, but their work on the offense boards helped preserve the lead. UConn finally pulled away over the last 10 minutes, increasing the lead to 71-51 on two Ryan Boatright free throws with just over 4 minutes to play.