HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Bring on the Big East.
Connecticut (11-0) is heading into the conference schedule
unbeaten and the second-ranked Huskies have gotten there with size,
speed and a rookie backcourt.
Point guard Craig Austrie played like a veteran Friday night
setting a freshman record for assists with 14 in UConn's 111-75
victory over in-state rival Quinnipiac. Austrie broke the previous
record of 13 set by Marcus Williams, who was suspended the first
half of the season for his role in the theft of laptops from
Williams, last season's Big East assist leader, is eligible to
return for the conference opener Jan. 3 at Marquette, but it is
Austrie who has earned the start, coach Jim Calhoun said.
"He's deserved that right. He's led us to 11-0," Calhoun said.
"He's evolved into a kid who can play point guard, can lead his
team and has a lot of confidence in his teammates."
The Huskies cruised through a seven-game homestand against
overmatched opponents winning by an average margin of 39 points.
It's the fourth start of 10-0 or better for the Huskies in 20 years
Austrie said he's has been making the most of the talent
"It makes the game so much easier for me," Austrie said.
"Playing with these guys has really stepped up my game to another
Against Quinnipiac, it was Hilton Armstrong taking over the game
for the Huskies, who found themselves trailing by six early in the
first half. Armstrong finished with a career-high 26 points.
"The game just came to me," Armstrong said. "I just relaxed a
little bit and let it come to me."
Rashad Anderson finished with 20 points for UConn and Marcus
Johnson added 17. UConn was without sophomore Rudy Gay, who is
nursing a sore ankle. Without his firepower, the Huskies turned to
Armstrong and he didn't disappoint. He was 11-of-14 from the field,
grabbed 10 rebounds and had two blocks.
The Huskies discovered early they couldn't afford to look past
the scrappy Bobcats. Quinnipiac was able to break the UConn press
and had five 3s in the first half to keep it close. Winchester's
3-pointer with 13:06 left in the half gave the Bobcats their
largest lead, 22-16.
"We gave them a good battle for 17 minutes," Quinnipiac coach
Joe DeSantis said. "I promised my team that when I watch the tape
tomorrow I won't look at the scoreboard. I'll look at how we
played. We played hard. They made one of those phenomenal runs on
us and the show was over."
UConn rallied behind the hustle and inside play of Armstrong. He
had seven points in a 9-3 run and the teams traded baskets over the
next 4 minutes. UConn closed the half on a 10-0 run to take a 46-35
lead. The spurt was sparked by Armstrong, who upended a courtside
table to save a ball. The 6-foot-11 center then pulled himself off
the floor and raced downcourt in time to field a pass from Austrie
and hit an outside jumper, drawing an ovation from the crowd of
"That's just something we do every day in practice. We go hard
and somebody's going to fall," Armstrong said. "You just have to
get back up and get back in the play. It comes from practicing with
Coach Calhoun. He's never just going to let you lay there."
Armstrong kept it going in the second half. He had four of
UConn's first six points and the Huskies began to pull away.
Johnson's breakaway dunk off his own steal with 14:31 left gave
UConn a 66-40 lead. The Huskies led by as many as 38 down the
Connecticut has won all seven meetings against Quinnipiac.
Austrie, who leads the team with 53 assists, is eager for his
first taste of Big East basketball.
"Playing the whole month of December really prepped us for the
Big East," Austrie said. "At the end playing Quinnpiac, a good
team, really gave us a wakeup call. We'll be ready for Marquette."