Defense Bailed Out Huskies

A few quick observations, while wondering if Connecticut will ever get an easy win at South Florida.

First, there will be times this season when UConn will have to jump on the back of guard Jeremy Lamb and let him carry the team offensively. This was one of those nights and Lamb played like a pro, getting to the basket, hitting the perimeter shot, and making clutch shot after clutch shot in the second half. Lamb scored 23 points in UConn's 60-57 victory and no other Husky had more than nine. Just one more reason why I think Lamb will be Big East Player of the Year.

"That's what a pro looks like. It's just do what you can do," USF coach Stan Heath said. "He just made some tough shots and took over."

Even though some of the foul calls were suspect, Alex Oriakhi can't play this way. He had six points, one rebound and played just 14 minutes because of foul trouble. He finished with four fouls and three turnovers. With Oriakhi on the bench, Andre Drummond spent a lot of time chasing USF's mobile big men out on the perimeter. That takes Drummond away from the basket and he had only four points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes, His one blocked shot was a big one down the stretch.

The Huskies won, but they don't look good when they aren't running. UConn didn't score a fastbreak point in the entire game. Not sure how that happens.

UConn had six assists on 21 baskets. That's not good.

The Huskies rebounded better in the second half and won the battle on the boards 36-30. UConn also played better defense in the second half, holding USF to 36 percent shooting and 28.6 percent from three-point range (after USF was 5-for-10 beyond the arc in the first half).

UConn made four consecutive defensive stops in the second half that turned the game around.

"I thought that was the ball game," UConn associate head coach George Blaney, who took over in place of suspended coach Jim Calhoun. "I thought our defense was pretty good."

Remember this was the first true road game of the season for No. 9 UConn.

By the way, Blaney took blame for the mixup that caused UConn to fall behind before the opening tip. USF's Shaun Noriega made one of two free throws the Bulls were awarded after the UConn bench was assessed a technical foul for failing to submit its starting lineup on time.

"My fault. We didn't put the lineup in the scorebook. ... You have to put it in 10 minutes before, and we just didn't do it," Blaney said.

Here are some selective quotes, courtesy of USF Athletic Communication.

"If our team plays like this, we'll win a lot of games," USF head coach Stan Heath said. "We're not into moral victories, but we're into getting better and I'm seeing progress."

UConn won the battle on boards 26-16 after the break.

"We didn't rebound as well as we did in the first half," Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. "That was the difference-maker in the second half."

Here's the box score:

UConn 60, USF 57

UConn: Smith 0-3 4-4 4, Oriakhi 2-6 2-5 6, Drummond 2-5 0-2 4, Lamb 8-11 6-8 23, Napier 1-9 1-2 4, Daniels 2-5 0-0 4, Olander 2-3 2-2 6, Boatright 4-6 0-1 9. Totals 21-48 15-24 60.

USF: Gilchrist 5-14 2-3 12, Fitzpatrick 4-6 2-2 14, Collins 1-7 2-2 4, Noriega 1-3 4-5 7, Robertson 1-3 0-0 2, Anderson Jr. 1-4 2-2 4, Rudd 2-4 0-0 5, Poland 4-8 0-2 9, Nash 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-50 12-16 57.

Halftime_UConn 30-28. 3-Point Goals_UConn 3-12 (Boatright 1-1, Lamb 1-2, Napier 1-6, Smith 0-1, Daniels 0-2), South Florida 7-17 (Fitzpatrick 4-6, Rudd 1-2, Poland 1-3, Noriega 1-3, Gilchrist 0-1, Nash 0-1, Robertson 0-1). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_UConn 36 (Drummond 7), South Florida 30 (Fitzpatrick 12). Assists_UConn 6 (Napier 3), South Florida 11 (Collins 6). Total Fouls_UConn 16, South Florida 18. Technical_UConn Bench. A_5,705.

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