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.
"Sometimes the lessons you learn can't be told or spelled
out," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "It needs to be seen. It was
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 7½
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
"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 14½ 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
Nick Jacobson hit four 3-pointers in the second half and led
Utah with 19 points.