Gay Sparks No. 1 Connecticut Past Indiana
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ Top-ranked Connecticut was too big, too strong and too poised to let a hostile environment or some pesky 3-point shooters end its winning streak. The Huskies simply overpowered another ranked opponent.
Rudy Gay quieted Indiana’s crowd with 19 points and 12 rebounds while five other UConn players scored in double figures, leading the Huskies to an 88-80 victory Saturday over the 22nd-ranked Hoosiers.
``Coach always talks about being tough, going on the floor and taking advantage of every situation,″ Gay said. ``If I didn’t do that, the way they were shooting, they could have kicked it out and hit a 3. So that could have changed the game a lot.″
In their first trip to Bloomington since 1938, the Huskies (20-1) were uncharacteristically erratic. They struggled with turnovers, committing seven in the first 12 minutes. They allowed Indiana (13-6) to rally twice from double-digit deficits and couldn’t seal the game until the final minutes even after building a 20-point lead in the second half.
But UConn’s talent managed to overcome those flaws and the Huskies won their ninth straight and improved to 7-0 against Top 25 teams this season.
Gay delivered inside and outside, while Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong dominated the middle. Armstrong finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Boone added 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
All the Hoosiers could do was look for answers.
Playing again without forward D.J. White (foot), last year’s Big Ten freshman of the year, Indiana had to rely almost exclusively on Marco Killingsworth inside. He finished with 15 points and six rebounds _ not nearly enough for Indiana.
``That is a great basketball team, the best I’ve seen,″ Indiana coach Mike Davis said. ``They’re so physical and have so many weapons you have to try and take away, whew, I’m glad that one’s over.″
The Hoosiers countered UConn’s size by spreading the floor. But that didn’t work, either. They shot 37.7 percent from the field and were 10-of-29 on 3-pointers. Marshall Strickland led Indiana with 16 points and five assists, and Roderick Wilmont added 14 points.
Indiana has played two No. 1 teams this season and lost to both by eight points. Then-No. 1 Duke beat them 75-67 on Nov. 30. Indiana is 1-5 all-time against top-ranked teams in Bloomington.
While Indiana struggled to shoot against one of the nation’s top defenses, UConn shot 54.2 percent. The Huskies outrebounded Indiana 45-35, a figure that was more lopsided until the closing minutes. UConn blocked seven shots compared with none for Indiana, and the Huskies routinely went to the free throw line after penetrating and drawing fouls.
``It’s a building block we can learn from and then move on,″ Indiana’s Earl Calloway said. ``We need to keep trying to get better and keep winning.″
Indiana did take advantage of UConn’s early miscues. It used a flurry of turnovers to spark a 12-4 run midway through the first half, which gave the Hoosiers a 29-20 lead.
Three minutes later, though, Killingsworth drew his second foul and the Huskies pounced. With Killingsworth out, UConn closed the half on a 19-5 run to take a 41-36 halftime lead. The margin could have been even wider, but the officials reversed Denham Brown’s 3-pointer at the buzzer, using replay to determine the shot wasn’t off in time.
The run didn’t stop there. After Killingsworth opened the second half by making two free throws, UConn scored 12 straight points to build a 53-38 lead with 17:26 left. They led by as much as 63-43 and appeared to be coasting.
``It was their spread and ability to shoot 3s and our power on the inside,″ Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. ``I think we eventually got the power inside and the balance of transition and hitting open shots. But they would not quit.″
Twice the Hoosiers rallied. They scored seven straight points to get within 13 and then used a 16-4 run to make it 73-66 with 7:48 left. Indiana even had a chance to cut the deficit to four, but Ben Allen’s wide-open 3 from the top of the key bounced off the front of the rim.
Then the Huskies righted themselves. They took control with a 12-2 spurt that made it 85-68 and fended off one more late charge.
``We went back to who we are and what we are and played good defense the last 8 minutes of the first half,″ Calhoun said. ``Rudy Gay stepped up when he needed to and our inside game is starting to come around.″