The first half played out close to what Jim Calhoun had observed about practice -- more turnovers (11) than assists (9). But what surprised most was that UConn was on the short end of a 36-35 halftime score and had been outhustled by their Division II. Almost as surprising as the halftime deficit was the rebounding margin -- AIC out-rebounded the bigger Huskies 23 to 17 in the first half and by a whopping on the offensive glass.
AJ Price was the only player to hit double digits scoring in the first half hitting for 11 points on 5-8 shooting. Although Hasheem Thabeet scored just three first half points on one for three shooting, his teammates did a nice job of getting him the ball in the low blocks. The first points of the 2006 season came at the hands of the big fellah, who threw down a stanchion-rattling dunk.
In fact, the game line went as follows: blocked by Thabeet, defensive rebound by Thabeet, dunk by Thabeet. Not a bad start! Thabeet's first line would have looked a lot better if he had converted at the foul line. He went just one for six for the charity stripe, despite displaying solid form from the line.
After likely receiving an earful at halftime from Calhoun, the Huskies opened the second half on an 8-0 run and raced to a 75-59 victory.
The Huskies started the second half the same way they started the first – with a Thabeet dunk.
The second half saw a number of varied line-ups, both two and three guard sets with Wiggins and Price picking up the lions' share of playing time in the backcourt.
Two of the most spectacular plays of the evening came both came off of transition ally-oops from the hands of AJ Price.
The first was a perfectly executed toss to the right of the basket that found the hands of Stanley Robinson who threw down a high flying jam. A few minutes later, AJ again was racing down the left side and threw what looked like an uncatchable pass. Somehow, Marcus Johnson who was racing toward the basket on the right side exploded well above the rim, caught the ball well behind his head with two hands and threw down a nasty two hander.
Price finished the night with a team high 17 points on 7 for 14 shooting, 3 for 8 from beyond the arc.
Hasheem Thabeet was second in scoring for the Huskies with 11 points, 4 for 5 from the floor, but would have put up a bigger number if he had not gone 3 for 11 from the line. Thabeet also had the most impressive play of the evening with a tough catch in traffic followed by a reverse two-handed layup off the glass. There might not be another seven-footer in all of college hoops that could have made that play.
The catch alone was tough enough, but to twist back and lay it in as he uncorked toward the basket was just a remarkable show of athleticism in a 7'3" body. As impressive Thabeet was on offense, he was dominant at times on defense, recording seven of UConn's 14 blocked shots and gathering in eight rebounds.
Despite the heroics from Price and Thabeet, it was Doug Wiggins who set the tone for the Huskies in the second half. Although Wiggins was credited with just two steals, he got his hands on countless others. Wiggins matched AJ Price with four assists, one behind Marcus Johnson who led all Huskies with five.
Other notables were Gavin Edwards who played well on both ends of the floor, finishing with seven points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot, and Stanley Robinson who did a good job of getting after his man defensively, finishing with four points on an efficient 2-4 from the floor and two blocks of his own.
Jerome Dyson had a quiet offensive evening netting just six points, though he earned every bit of his 21 minutes hounding his man up and down the entire floor most of the night. Jeff Adrien had a quiet game with seven points and five rebounds in his 28 minutes of playing time.
The first half was shaky, but the young Huskies gave the Gampel faithful a taste of what is to come. If they can learn to cut down on the turnovers, maintain the defensive intensity for as close to the 40 minutes as possible, dictate a fast pace offensively and hold their own on the boards, they'll be a handful.
What can improve the Huskies from good to very good is how effective they are in getting the ball inside to Thabeet – and whether he can convert those opportunities into points at the line.
Not a perfect start, but a good one and it definitely showed the potential of the young Huskies.