UConn cruises past USF into AAC quarterfinals

HARTFORD, Conn. – One down. Three to go.

The defending national champion UConn Huskies began their rather complicated march to madness with a 69-43 victory over USF Thursday night in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament at the XL Center. This one started out with an 8-0 lead that mushroomed to 25-5. UConn, riding the offense of Daniel Hamilton(20 points) and Rodney Purvis (13 points), then shifted into cruise control.

The Huskies, needing a four-game sweep and a championship to receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, know the rest of the journey won’t be this easy.

No 6 seed UConn (18-13) advances to the quarterfinal round and will play No. 3 Cincinnati (22-9) Friday (approximately 9 p.m., ESPNU).

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UConn and Cincinnati split their regular season series. The Huskies won 62-56 on Jan. 10 at the XL Center. Cincinnati held court at home, returning the favor 19 days later with a 70-58 win.

The Huskies were without forward Kentan Facey Thursday. Facey suffered a concussion in practice Tuesday and was held out of the game.

Ryan Boatright scored 12 points for UConn. Phillp Nolan grabbed seven rebounds for the Huskies, who shot 52.5 percent. USF was led by 13 points for Nehemiah Morillo.

UConn was 11-for-17 from 3-point rate. That’s the most made 3-pointers in the short 2-year history of the tournament.

UConn scored the first eight points of the game and led 12-2, 17-2 and 25-5 before South Florida could generate any offense at all. The Bulls missed their first nine shots before Ruben Guerrero scored with 13:41 to play in the half.

The Huskies were balanced offensively in the first half with Boatright and Calhoun scored six points each. Daniel Hamilton, the AAC Rookie of the Year, opened the scoring with a three-pointer and finished with five points at the break. Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis also had five points.

Calhoun hit a pullup jumper to give the Huskies a 15-point edge. But the play of the half was a breakaway dunk by Brimah that was the result of a Boatright steal. Boatright passed ahead to Purvis, who probably could have scored on a layup, but he passed behind him to Hamilton who then dished to Brimah for a crowd pleasing dunk that put UConn ahead 25-5.

USF called timeout to pull itself together. The Huskies enjoyed the dunk and might have let up a bit at that point. The Bulls outscored UConn 9-4 the rest of the half.

The Bulls shot 23.8 percent (5-for-21 in the first half). UConn was 10-for-20 from the field.

East Carolina and Houston were winners in the afternoon session.. . . ┬áB.J. Tyson scored 19 and Marshall Guilmette had 18 for East Carolina as the Pirates defeated UCT 81-80 in overtime. B.J. Taylor led UCF (12-18) with 22 points and outscored ECU 46-38 in the second half to force the extra period. East Carolina (14-18) advances to play top-seeded SMU (24-6) and noon Friday. . . . Jherrod Stiggers and Cavon Baker combined for 43 points as Houston (13-18) downed Tulane 66-60. Payton Henson led Tulane (15-16) with 14. Houston will play No. 2 seed Tulsa (21-9) in Friday’s quarterfinals at 7 p.m.

 

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