Huskies make case for No. 1 ranking with rout of DePaul

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Odd as it sounded, Jerome Dyson insisted he really believed it: Connecticut has gone ignored this season.

Well, those days appear to be over.

Dyson scored 18 points and No. 2 Connecticut won its eighth straight, beating struggling DePaul 71-49 on Wednesday night.

"We've been playing under the radar," Dyson said.

Consider it humming now.

With No. 1 Duke losing to Wake Forest, UConn could grab the top ranking -- assuming there's no letdown against Providence on Saturday. Then again, the Huskies are focused on bigger goals.

They want to win the Big East and, ultimately, the national championship, and coach Jim Calhoun believes this team is capable of doing just that.

"I think we have a chance if we just tighten up a little bit and don't take plays off to be a special team," he said.

They were locked in against DePaul. The Huskies were simply too quick and too deep for the Blue Demons.

The Huskies (19-1, 8-1 Big East) built a 14-point lead in the first half, only to watch it dwindle to six at the break.

No problem. They started the second half with a 10-3 run to make it 51-38, with A.J. Price and Dyson each scoring two baskets during the run. That sent the Blue Demons (8-13, 0-8) to their eighth straight loss and kept them winless in conference play.

"We got beat up," DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. "We got physically beat up."

Dyson led four Huskies in double figures, with Price and Jeff Adrien scoring 12 apiece and Hasheem Thabeet adding 11 points. Adrien also grabbed 13 rebounds after pulling down 19 in an eight-point win at Notre Dame on Saturday night, while Thabeet added nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals on Wednesday night.

Dar Tucker scored 20 for DePaul, which is off to its worst conference start since the 1995-96 team dropped its first 12 Conference USA games. A few flourishes aside, DePaul did not look like it was in Connecticut's league, even if it joined the Big East in 2005-06.

DePaul, which won 20 games two years ago, continues to sputter after going 11-19 last season. The Blue Demons got off to a mildly promising 8-5 start, but the current skid wiped away any good feelings that created.

And they were overmatched by UConn, a team they had given fits.

UConn needed to rally from 13 down to win by five in Hartford last year and lost by eight at Allstate Arena two years ago, but there was little drama this time.

The Huskies looked like they were ready to pull away in the first half, when Price made a 3-pointer from the corner with 5:42 left. That capped a 15-4 run and made it 34-20, but instead of going quietly, the Blue Demons rallied.

Tucker, who scored 15 points in the first half, woke up the crowd when he slammed in a 360 degree breakaway dunk late in the half. And Mac Koshwal kept the roars going when he stole a pass, dribbled upcourt, spun and handed off to Tucker for a layup that pulled the Blue Demons within 37-30. Tucker also made a long 3-pointer from the wing with 10 seconds left to make it 41-35 at the break.

"We let them feel like they could play with us," Dyson said. "That gave them a little bit of energy. Good thing it wasn't too early in the first half, where we got lax."

That run aside, this game belonged to UConn. The Huskies dominated on the boards, outrebounding DePaul 41-29, and shot 47.4 percent while holding DePaul to 38.2 percent.

The defense was particularly tight in the second half, as the Huskies outscored the Blue Demons 30-14 and held them to 6-of-25 shooting.

"We talked very loudly at halftime about the fact that we weren't playing defense," Calhoun said. "That is as good a defensive performance as we're going to have."