UConn stumbled into turnovers, threw errant passes, found all kinds of ways to turn offense into something uglier and more complicated than it needs to be. This wasn't a show of grace or artistry.
But wins and losses count, not style. Good thing for the Huskies, who despite another lackluster showing managed to narrowly avoid one of the worst losses in Gampel Pavilion history Saturday night.
UConn erased an early eight-point deficit and held off last-place DePaul 64-57 before a sellout crowd of 10,167. The Huskies didn't play well, but they snapped a three-game losing streak and took a small step back toward where they want to be.
"The definition of that game is a pure dentist game," associate head coach George Blaney said. "It was grind-it-out, hang tough. . . . I told the team after the three losses that I felt sick and I felt bad. Tonight, I still feel a little sick, but I feel good because W's are better than L's. It's a Big East win, a win we needed to get ourselves off the deck. We had to fight for it, and I like the fight."
It sure was a fight against the lowly, but feisty Blue Demons, who were carried by Will Walker's 24 points, including six three-pointers. Walker hit dagger after dagger and scored 17 points in the second half to strike fear into UConn, which showed enough spunk when it mattered, finishing with a 13-5 run in the final 4:54.
"Walker basically put his team on his back, hit a lot of tough shots," UConn's Alex Oriakhi said. "We slowed him down in the first half, and he went off in the second."
Jerome Dyson had 20 points for UConn (14-9, 4-6 Big East). Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards each scored 10 points. Kemba Walker and Oriakhi each had nine points. Ater Majok had six points, four rebounds and five blocks. The Huskies had eight of their 13 turnovers in the first half and shot just 34.6 percent (9 of 26) in the second half.
"We still have a lot of work to do, but it's a Big East win," Kemba Walker said. "Right now, we can't complain about the wins. We'll just take it and build from here."
Mac Koshwal had 12 points and five rebounds for DePaul (8-15, 1-10), which has lost five in a row. The Blue Demons led 52-51 with five minutes remaining and gave the Huskies pretty much all they could handle.
"Even before taking the lead, our guys were really confident," interim coach Tracy Webster said. "They never gave up, and they have not been giving up the entire year."
Kemba Walker stole the ball from Will Walker near midcourt and went in for a layup that gave UConn the lead for good and started a 9-2 spurt.
Will Walker's final three-pointer cut the lead to 60-57 with 2:09 remaining. After a Dyson miss, Koshwal and Michael Bizoukas both missed layups for the Blue Demons, and UConn sealed the victory from the free-throw line. The Huskies made just one three-pointer but were 25-for-35 on free throws compared to DePaul's 1-for-6.
"All I can say is that the six we took, we need to make all six of them," said Webster, who was called for a technical foul in the first half. "Hopefully one day we'll get to the line 40 times."
The Huskies came out flat, trailing 20-12 as the Blue Demons made nine of their first 11 shots. But Edwards hit a free throw following Webster's technical with 7:13 remaining in the half to start a 14-2 run. The Huskies slowly gained control of the game, leading 34-27 at halftime.
And then, in typical fashion, they lost control again. It's just that this time, they didn't pay with a loss. Dyson was banged up, Walker was sore, Robinson was cramping and the Huskies were careless when they weren't lethargic. But afterward, they felt just fine.
"You could tell there was a different atmosphere in the locker room," Dyson said. "We were talking and feeling good about ourselves. Even though we didn't play that well, we feel good about ourselves."