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(Saturday, December 28th)
Final Score: (15) Connecticut 82, Eastern Washington 65
Bridgeport, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - Shabazz Napier recorded 15 points and nine assists and No. 15 Connecticut pulled away in the second half for an 82-65 victory over Eastern Washington at Webster Bank Arena.
Ryan Boatright contributed 14 points and Niels Giffey finished with 13 to help the Huskies successfully tune up for Tuesday's American Athletic Conference opener at Houston. Connecticut (11-1) also utilized some sharp free throw shooting to prevail, making good on 25-of-27 attempts from the charity stripe for the contest.
"If they shoot 25-for-27 every game, they're going to be in the Final Four, because you can't guard the foul line," Eastern Washington head coach Jim Hayford remarked afterward.
Tyler Harvey posted a game-high 19 points in the loss, the fourth in a row for Eastern Washington (5-6). Ognjen Miljkovic and Drew Brandon had 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Eagles.
The Eagles were able to hang tough against their nationally ranked foe for much of the opening half and owned a 21-20 edge with six minutes left in the period after Brandon followed a Miljkovic 3-pointer with a go-ahead layup.
Connecticut then came to life via a 10-2 run to close out the period, with Giffey accounting for the final five points to stake the Huskies to a 30-23 halftime advantage.
UConn stretched the margin to double digits when back-to-back buckets by Lasan Kromah and Omar Calhoun made the score 44-33 with 13 minutes to play, but a 7-2 push started by a Parker Kelly three got the Eagles back within striking distance shortly afterward.
Connecticut's lead was just six at 48-42 after Harvey sank a jumper just past the midway mark of the second half. Napier came through with a key three-point play on the ensuing possession, however, igniting a 10-3 push that gave the Huskies some separation.
Phillip Nolan scored the final five points of the surge, the last two a dunk off a Napier feed that put UConn up 58-45 with under eight minutes left.
"We increased the defensive pressure," said Napier of UConn's second-half run. "Coach [Kevin] Ollie always says when we play better defense we get a lot of steals, and when you get a lot of steals you get more opportunities at the basket at the opposite end."
Kelly hit another trey that cut Eastern Washington's deficit to 70-59 with 4:26 to go, but the Eagles mad just one field goal the rest of the way and the Huskies created some distance with their success from the foul line.
Eastern Washington shot just seven free throws for the contest, making six ... Calhoun registered 12 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench ... UConn finished with a 40-20 advantage in points in the paint ... The Eagles concluded a two-game East Coast trip that began with a 92-70 loss at Seton Hall on Sunday ... The game marked the first-ever meeting between the schools.
12/28 18:03:57 ET
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