Scores

Final

Utah 44

(3-2, 1-2 away)

(1) Connecticut 76

(4-1, 4-1 home)

4:30 PM ET, November 28, 2003

Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

1 2 T
UTAH 13 3144
#1CONN 37 3976

Okafor scores 21 despite aching back

NEW YORK (AP) -- Connecticut's Preseason NIT stumble turned out to be a temporary condition.

The Huskies played like a No. 1 team Friday night, manhandling overmatched Utah 76-44 to take third place in the tournament.

It was small consolation for UConn, stunned in the semifinals by Georgia Tech 77-61. The Yellow Jackets played Texas Tech for the championship in the late game Friday.

"Sometimes the lessons you learn can't be told or spelled out," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "It needs to be seen. It was seen."

Emeka Okafor shrugged off his aching back to dominate inside as the Huskies demonstrated the resolve Calhoun said was missing in their loss to Georgia Tech. UConn (4-1) ran off 13 straight points in the game's opening minutes. Okafor had nine points in 7 minutes, matching his total in the Georgia Tech game.

Okafor's back was still a problem. He often winced and he spent one timeout on the floor in front of the UConn bench as an assistant helped him stretch. With 11:21 remaining in the game and UConn ahead by 32 points, he went to the dressing room.

"Emeka felt better early," Calhoun said. "With 12 or 14 minutes to play, he was having trouble running. He couldn't sit on the bench. It was too painful. That's good for me. I don't like him on the bench."

Okafor was far too much for Utah (3-2) to handle, scoring 15 points in the first half, missing just one of eight shots. He finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. Denham Brown added 19, hitting all eight shots.

Calhoun questioned his team's toughness after the loss to Georgia Tech and UConn responded. The Huskies dived after loose balls, broke through screens, played defense with a purpose and did all the things the coach said was missing in Wednesday night's game.

"We made a statement to ourselves that we're pretty good," Calhoun said. "I couldn't be happier."

Utah never had a chance. The Utes managed just three field goals in the first 14 minutes and were in a 37-13 hole at halftime. They continued to struggle from the foul line. After going 3-for-14 in their loss to Texas Tech, the Utes were 6-for-21 against Connecticut.

Nick Jacobson hit four 3-pointers in the second half and led Utah with 19 points.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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2003-04 Season

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» Nov 28, 2003 @CONN 76, UTAH 44Recap