By DOM AMORE, email@example.com
The Hartford Courant
11:03 PM EST, November 14, 2013
STORRS — This time, UConn made an easy victory look easy.
And by the end of their 101-55 victory over the University of Detroit, the Huskies starters were on the bench, enjoying the finishing of their work, rooting for the walk-ons to score a basket that will live on in the program's archives.
This was the way it was supposed to be — no letup — for UConn in the first game of the 2K Classic series, and the Huskies (3-0) delivered Thursday before 8,140 in their first game on campus this season.
"When we came out in the second half," Ryan Boatright said, "I called us into the huddle and I emphasized that we needed to come out with the same energy and finish the game. That's what we did, and it was fun."
Coach Kevin Ollie could find little, if anything, to nitpick here. UConn had six players in double figures in scoring, led by Omar Calhoun with 17 and Niels Giffey with 15, and they played lock-down defense, adjusting after a brief, hot start by the opponents' best player, Juwan Howard Jr., and … ta-dahhhh … they outrebounded the Titans, 49 to 35, a few days after being outrebounded by Yale by 12.
The coaches couldn't think up yet another rebounding drill, so they tried a different approach …
"KO told us, if that happened again, he'd make us run the whole practice," Boatright said. "So we definitely came out and made sure we won the rebounding battle."
The tenor and tone for this game was set in the aftermath of UConn's 80-62 victory over Yale. The Huskies, in addition to being outrebounded, let up with a 21-point lead, and Ollie was unhappy about that.
"I was disappointed in our pride-effort after the Yale game," Ollie said, "but it shows if they're a good team in how they responded, and they responded the right way."
Detroit was the last nonconference team to beat the Huskies in Gampel Pavilion, knocking the 2000-01 UConn team out of the NIT. UConn's streak is now 40 in a row over nonconference teams at Gampel, and this was no contest, almost from the start.
Howard scored eight points over the first 4:33, and the Titans briefly led 14-8, the first time that the Huskies have trailed this season. About that time, Ollie put in fifth-year transfer Lasan Kromah to guard Howard, who was quiet thereafter and finished with 14 points, and Amida Brimah, who blocked four shots.
And he sent in his instant offensive weapon, senior Niels Giffey, who hit his first five shots, three of them three-point goals, to ignite the Huskies to a 21-2 run. They took control and broke it open.
"With Shabazz [Napier] and Boat and myself, we really know what it takes to stay in a game like that," Giffey said, "and take over the game."
Detroit (1-2) hit six of its first 11 shots, then missed 18 of its next 21.
"What changed was their ability to extend their pressure," Titans coach Ray McCallum said, "They decided to just really lock down and pressure and deny us. We have to really stay together, and learn from them — the ball moved well for them, and their defense was consistent throughout."
Giffey scored his 15 points in 14 minutes. For the third game in a row, he scored all his points — 13, 15 and 15 — in the first half. Napier playfully predicted another 15 in the first half for Giffey, and another goose egg in the second.
"Sad, but true," said Giffey, who finished 5-for-6 from the floor.
Calhoun had 13 in the first half, as the Huskies hit 7 of 11 three-point shots. Boatright's three at the buzzer made it 48-26.
"We harped on it," Calhoun said, "to keep our foot on the gas and keep pushing forward and we were able to extend the lead."
DeAndre Daniels, limited to six minutes in the first half by foul trouble, finally joined in the part, scoring 11 points over the first 7 ½ minutes of the second half. Napier had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Boatright had 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds, but as UConn's lead swelled to more than 40 points, there was no reason for Ollie to leave them in to try for triple-doubles.
Instead, he emptied his bench with about 10 minutes to go, and senior Tyler Olander scored 10 points to join the double-figure group. Finally, the walk-ons came in and Tor Watts scored, prompting a wild celebration on the UConn bench. Leon Tolksdorf's basket put UConn past 100 for the first time since the 2009 NCAA Tournament and the first-round victory over Chattanooga.
"Our defense was extra-ordinary," Ollie said. "We were flying around, we were contesting shots, and when we rebound we can fast-break even more. We're lethal when we can get everybody running and sharing the basketball like we did. It was a team-made victory, not a self-made victory."
The 2K Classic continues for UConn with Boston University coming to Gampel on Sunday at noon, and it concludes at Madison Square Garden against Boston College on Nov. 21, and either Indiana or Washington on Nov. 22.
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