Boatright rallies No. 17 UConn past Bryant 66-53
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Defending champion UConn expects to get everyone’s best shot this season.
The 17th-ranked Huskies survived the first one Friday night, coming back from a nine-point deficit in the second half to beat Bryant 66-53 in the season opener for both teams. Ryan Boatright scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half and the senior guard also had eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.
“Once I got a few picks and a few dunks, everybody’s intensity picked up and the game just went our way,” he said.
Amida Brimah added 12 points and five blocked shots for the Huskies, who won their 15th consecutive opening game.
Dyami Starks had 18 points for Bryant, which led by six points at halftime and 37-28 after Angus Riley hit a 3-pointer to open up the second half.
But the Huskies began chipping away. A 3-pointer, steal and dunk by Boatright brought the Huskies within a point at 42-41. Another layup gave them their first lead of the second half at 45-43.
Brimah made some key blocks, including one in which he sent the crowd into a frenzy by jumping out of the lane and knocking away a 3-point attempt by Shane McLaughlin.
The Huskies slowly stretched out the lead and a 3-pointer by Sam Cassell Jr. made it 57-47 with 4:11 left, part of a 14-6 run that UConn used to close the game.
“We have a point guard pumping everybody up and Amida in the back blocking everything, it just gives you confidence to play ‘D,’” said sophomore forward Kentan Facey, who chipped in with 11 rebounds.
The Huskies shot 64 percent from the floor in the second half and held Bryant to three baskets over the final 6 minutes.
Bryant used an 18-0 first-half run to give the Huskies a scare. Starks capped that with a 3-pointer that gave the Bulldogs a 26-19 lead before Kevin Ollie called a timeout. UConn missed nine shots during that run and Bryant had four 3-pointers. A layup by Shane McLaughlin just before the halftime buzzer sent Bryant into the locker room up 34-28.
“I’m not disappointed with the way we played,” said Bryant coach Tim O’Shea. “I think we have the makings, for our level, of a great team. We’ve just got to be able to sustain for 40 minutes.”
UConn outrebounded Bryant 39-31 after trailing 22-20 on the boards at halftime.
UConn missed on nine of its 11 3-point attempts before intermission, but hit five of eight after intermission. Bryant was seven of 21 from behind the arc.
UConn: The Huskies played without guard Rodney Purvis, who was suspended for one game because he played too much summer basketball. The school said the sophomore, who sat out last season after transferring from North Carolina State, played in two different summer leagues, which is banned by the NCAA. Junior guard Omar Calhoun, who sprained a ligament in his right knee in a preseason practice, also did not play.
Bryant: The Bulldogs have not won a season opener since moving to Division I in 2008-09. They last won an opening game in 2005, beating Adelphi 70-62.
UConn plays the College of Charleston on Thursday as part of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament.
Bryant hosts New Hampshire on Thursday.
Members of last season’s NCAA championship team received their rings in a pre-game ceremony. Miami Heat guard Shabazz Napier’s mother, Carmen Velasquez, showed up to pick up his jewelry.
UConn is now 3-0 in openers under Kevin Ollie and 83-29 in the program’s 112-year history. The Huskies’ last loss in a season opener came in 1999, a 70-68 defeat at the hands of Iowa in a tournament at Madison Square Garden.