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UConn big men wear down PC in second half

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- When the shots wouldn't fall, top-ranked
Connecticut had to work a little harder for its baskets.

"Making the first shot ... that would be a bit easier," UConn
center Josh Boone said after the Huskies beat Providence 76-62 on
Saturday. "But when you have 21 offensive rebounds, you can't
really complain."

Hilton Armstrong had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Boone had
nine and 13 to lead UConn (18-1, 6-1 Big East) to its seventh
consecutive win. The Huskies struggled with their shooting -- making
just 39 percent from the field -- but used a 52-34 advantage in
rebounding to set up 36 second-chance points, against 11 for
Providence.

"That was the killer," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "That
was the difference."

The road team had won five straight matchups between the teams,
including UConn's 94-89 double-overtime victory in Providence last
year. But the Friars (9-9, 2-5) fell to 0-5 against ranked teams
this season and has not beaten one in 15 tries.

"Half that team is NBA," said Donnie McGrath, who scored 18
points for Providence. "It's tough to compete with a team like
that for 40 minutes."

Randall Hanke had 16 points and Sharaud Curry added 15 for the
Friars. Hanke also had five blocked shots, and his back-to-back
layups pulled Providence within 50-45 midway through the second
half.

But UConn scored the next seven points, getting a tip-in from
Denham Brown, two free throws from Boone and another tip-in from
Rudy Gay that made it 56-45 with 9 minutes left. Brown finished
with 10 points and eight rebounds, and Gay scored 10 points.

"It took us 30 minutes to shake them. Maybe 35 minutes, and
that's due to their tenacity," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.
"Hilton Armstrong changed everything in the middle."

UConn, which improved to No. 1 in both polls
when Duke lost to Georgetown last week, next faces Pittsburgh (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today; No. 12 AP). Then the Huskies go to Indiana (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today; No. 13 AP) for a
nonconference game and return to the Big East to host Syracuse (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today; No. 25 AP), with a game at West Virginia (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today; No. 9 AP) on Feb. 11.

"Now we go easy," Calhoun joked. "We are in the best
conference in America."

The Huskies were without freshman Jeff Adrien, who was serving a
one-game suspension for fighting against St. John's. After
Wednesday's scuffle, UConn went on a 15-4 run.

The Huskies didn't need such a spark on Saturday.

"I wouldn't say losing a guy hurts us," guard Marcus Williams
said. "We're able to lose a guy and still come out with the same
performance."

Even without Adrien, who is averaging 4.9 rebounds a game, UConn
had a dominating rebounding performance. Every player who was in
the game for substantial minutes had at least two offensive
rebounds.

"That's one of the best things we do," Boone said. "Everyone
on our team can get to the offensive boards. When we do that, it
just makes our jobs that much easier."

The Friars kept it close for most of the first half, trailing
31-29 with 3 minutes left. But Brown and Rashad Anderson each hit a
3-pointer to make it an eight-point game at halftime.

UConn scored eight straight points early in the second half,
taking a 48-35 lead with 15:03 left on Armstrong's dunk. But
Providence went on an 8-0 run to get back in the game and trailed
50-45 on Hanke's putback.

The game opened with a stunning alley-oop in which Gay went
about 2 feet above the rim to catch the pass and slam it in.

"It's still impressive," Boone said, "no matter how many
times you see it."