STORRS — This wasn't what anyone saw coming. UConn was running away with it. The one player who had been struggling, DeAndre Daniels, had broken out and checked in for the season in a big way.
But Boston University didn't get the memo, didn't melt away the way the Huskies' last opponent did. By the early moments of the second half, the Terriers had erased a 19-point deficit and took the lead before an increasingly restless 9,195 at Gampel Pavilion.
"We started playing lax," Shabazz Napier said, "started looking at the score. They were knocking down shots, but we were giving them a lot of open shots. I think it had more to do with us."
Ryan Boatright made a jumper to put the Huskies back in front. Napier, who hadn't scored to that point, got himself to the line and scored the first of his 12 points and the Huskies regained control. They went on to beat the Terriers 77-60 in the second game of the 2K Classic.
Daniels, after scoring 19 total points in the first three games, exploited BU's defensive strategy to score 24, helping the Huskies open a commanding lead at the start and then pull away at the finish. He scored 12 in each half.
"We knew he was going to get back in his game, in his rhythm," Napier said, "Today was a good opportunity for him to do that. … If you take away one weapon, another weapon is going to be ready and loaded up. We've got a lot of guys who can shoot."
The key sequence for UConn began with 15:04 to play and the game tied at 46. The Huskies scored seven in a row, ending when Napier missed a shot, but got his own long rebound and found Daniels cutting through the lane. He hit him for the dunk.
"Credit to [Napier] for getting the offensive rebound," Daniels said.
"I was missing too many shots," Napier said, "I wasn't confident in taking that layup, I saw DeAndre coming and he made a great play dunking over the guy – I'll take that over my layup."
The Huskies put together a 16-3 run and had the game well in hand by the closing minutes.
All added up, it was a day of more good than bad for the Huskies, who started out on a 19-4 run, with Daniels scoring 12 in the first eight minutes. It was 32-13 after Boatright's three-pointer with 6:22 left in the half.
Then the Terriers, who missed 9 of their first 10 three-point attempts, started hitting. They closed the half with a 12-0 run and cut UConn's lead to 37-32. Wallingford's John Papale hit a couple of threes early in the second half, and BU took the lead, 43-42, on D.J. Irving's jumper with 17:30 to play.
"We kind of took our foot off the gas pedal, which I don't like to see," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said, "They're a tough team to guard. Overall, I thought we played pretty solid defense to hold a team like that to 34 percent."
BU played effective zone defense and really dominated the boards through the middle minutes of the game and had a 22-15 edge in rebounds at the half. When UConn began to retake control in that area, outrebounding the Terriers 21-14 in the second half to finish the game even, the zone was solved and scoring followed. Napier, the 6-foot-1 guard, led UConn again in rebounds, with 12.
"With a better mindset of running them off the three-point line, we would have been all right," said Boatright, who scored 16. "With them shooting a lot of threes, there were a lot of long rebounds. We weren't getting the rebounds, so once again we need to be able to rebound to be a great team."
BU ended up taking 32 three-point shots, making eight. The Terriers had obviously seen plenty of UConn action from the games against Maryland, Yale and Detroit, the last of which the Huskies won 101-55. Coach Joe Jones, whose brother, James, coaches Yale, certainly knew what was working for UConn – Niels Giffey hitting threes and freshman Amida Brimah blocking shots included. Giffey got off only two shots, making one, and Brimah had two blocks, but the Terriers went right at him, drawing four fouls.
That left the middle open for Daniels, who had a size advantage over BU's forwards and made 10 of 18 from the floor, though only 1 of 5 on three-point shots.
"We thought if we could do a good job on Napier, Boatright and [Omar] Calhoun," Jones said, "and Giffey had has been unbelievable from three, so if we could kind of control his ability to get threes off the pick and pop, that would help us as well. We knew that Daniels could have a good game, 24 points' worth I didn't know, but we know he's a terrific player. "
D.J. Irving scored 17, Maurice Watson Jr. 16 for BU (2-1). The Huskies (4-0), ranked 19th, play Boston College and either Indiana or Washington in the concluding rounds of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden next Thursday and Friday.
"It was good for us to play extended minutes against the zone," Ollie said, "For us to score 77 points and continue shooting [49.1 percent] the way we'd been shooting, I'm excited about our offensive efficiency. It comes down to rebounding and getting back in transition, that's our game. If we rebound the basketball, I'll put my money on us every night."Copyright © 2015, CT Now