Yale 60

(0-1, 0-1 away)

(1) Connecticut 70

(1-0, 1-0 home)

    7:00 PM ET, November 17, 2003

    Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut

    1 2 T
    YALE 31 2960
    #1CONN 28 4270

    Calhoun gets 400th win at UConn

    STORRS. Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut needed 20 minutes to start looking like the No. 1 team in the country.

    The Huskies rallied from a three-point halftime deficit to beat Yale 70-60 Monday night in the opening round of the Preseason NIT.

    It was better than the only other time Connecticut was a preseason No. 1. The Huskies opened the 1999-00 season with a 70-68 loss to Iowa in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

    "We've been through this before with great teams and with not so great teams," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. "We were not prepared to pay the price initially."

    The undermanned Bulldogs used a patient offense to spread the floor and keep the Huskies from getting out on the break.

    That changed in the second half as the Huskies used a 14-2 run to take a 48-37 lead and they went on to lead by as many as 17 before struggling at the free-throw line in the final 4{ minutes.

    "That was an untraditional game," Calhoun said. "We're going to have to be different teams different nights. This will be a work in progress not in terms of talent but with different roles."

    Emeka Okafor, the AP's preseason player of the year, had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead Connecticut, which will host Nevada in the second round Wednesday night.

    "Pick after pick after pick and all of a sudden they just score on the very last second," the junior center said of Yale's offense. "That's just a blow to your morale."

    Calhoun let his team know at halftime that it was time to be one of those different teams. He called it a one-way discussion.

    "Coach came in there at screamed at us and told us what we had to do," Connecticut guard Taliek Brown said. "We had to play harder and bring energy to the game. That's what we did in the second half."

    Denham Brown had 15 points and Ben Gordon added 13 and six assists for the Huskies, who took the lead for good at 36-35 with 17:13 left on a fast-break dunk by freshman Josh Boone. In addition to getting on the break, Connecticut turned up the pressure defense as well.

    Yale, which was playing a No. 1 team for the first time in school history, committed just three turnovers in taking the 31-28 halftime lead. They committed six turnovers in the opening five minutes of the second half and the Huskies were turning most of those into easy baskets.

    "In the second half a couple of things got away from us," Yale coach James Jones said. "We turned it over a couple times and that's always a key."

    Dominick Martin and Edwin Draughan each had 14 points for Yale, which lost its 12th straight season opener.

    "Basically staying in our offensive structure and doing what Coach told us and that's what got us our lead in the first half," Draughan said. "We might have deviated from it a little bit in the second half.

    "Maybe we got a little too excited at halftime."

    It was the 18th consecutive win in a home opener for Connecticut, which shot 57.7 percent in the second half (15-for-26), including 5-for-9 from 3-point range.

    The Huskies hit three 3s in four possessions as they took control in he second half. They failed to put it away, however, by going 3-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 4:30 and were 10-for-19 for the game.

    The win was the 400th at Connecticut for coach Jim Calhoun, who is in his 18th season at the school. He has a career mark of 648-296.

    Calhoun said the Huskies can expect to see a lot of different offenses and defenses as the season goes along and if his team doesn't come out at the start with the intensity it did to start the second half, "We're a celebration waiting to happen."

    It was Connecticut's 11th straight win over Yale and its 52nd in a row over an instate opponent.

    The Huskies played without heralded freshman Charlie Villanueva who is being held out pending NCAA eligibility questions.

    "We hope to know possibly by our next game exactly where he stands," Calhoun said.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2003-04 Season

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