Conference wins on the road are supposed to go down hard, and in this sense the American Athletic Conference has proved itself in Year 1. The Huskies got another road win Thursday, but it was a grind. UConn had to do it with defense, and sufficiently smothered Temple's shooters to win 68-55 before 6,053 at the Liacouras Center. Shabazz Napier scored 17 points, going 11-for-11 from the free throw line, and also got 12 rebounds and seven assists. Ryan Boatright scored 14, DeAndre Daniels 13 and Amida Brimah 10 for UConn (21-5, 9-4 AAC), which clinched a first-round bye for the upcoming conference tournament. The Huskies completed a sweep of Temple (7-10, 2-11), but this game was much tougher to lock down than the 90-66 victory in Hartford a month ago. "We had to get through it. It was an ugly win, it was a very tough game," Boatright said. "We've got a veteran team, we've got leaders on the floor who know how to grind out a win like this. We've been in this situation before." UConn took the lead for good with an 11-0 run late in the first half, and extended its lead to 12 early in the second. But the Owls, who outrebounded UConn 34-30, scratched back to as close as five. UConn held Temple without a basket for nearly 10 minutes and slowly built its lead up to 14, 52-38 on Napier's three-point play with a little more than five minutes to play. "The game's not always dictated on the offensive end," coach Kevin Ollie said. "Sometimes it's dictated on the defensive end." Still, the Owls made one last run to get it within single digits before the Huskies were able to close it out at the free throw line. The game was actually tougher than it looked for Napier, who finished 3-for-11 from the floor, and Boatright. Napier regretted eating some chicken wings late in the afternoon. "It was the worst decision I ever made," he said. "My stomach and my chest were burning. I was so winded and a lot of my shots were short shots." And Boatright, although he shot better at 5-for-9, regretted the Philly cheesesteak with pepper he had too close to game time. The Huskies shot 44.9 percent, but were 2-for-13 on three-point attempts. Napier and Boatright, who had three assists, were able to get the ball inside to their big men, especially Daniels and Brimah, for easier baskets. "We didn't play so well on offense, it was kind of sluggish," Napier said. "We had to do what we had to do on defense. This was an ugly win, but we had to get one." Temple was 19-for-56 from the floor, and its top scorer, Dalton Pepper, was just 4-for-18, thanks largely to the defense applied by Lasan Kromah. Quenton DeCosey led Temple with 16 points, but was just 5-for-15 from the floor. "Defensively, we locked down," Ollie said. "That's what we hang our hats on. When we don't have our offensive games, we want to get stops. We held them scoreless for long stretches and that's what got us the lead. To hold a team to 33 percent, that's damn good defense." UConn, ranked 21st in the AP poll, next plays Southern Methodist, one of the top teams in the AAC, on Sunday at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies started out slowly, missing 12 of their first 15 shots, and Temple had the early edge in rebounding. Anthony Lee, who did not get a rebound in 29 minutes against UConn on Jan. 21, got three in the early going as the Owls built an 18-12 lead, capped when Mark Williams made a layup, drew a foul and hit the ensuing free throw. Then the Huskies went on that 11-0 run to seize control. The run was ignited when Boatright hoisted a desperation three-pointer at the end of the shot clock. It went in, although the look on Ollie's face suggested that he was not impressed.
UConn Beats Temple, 68-55
Hartford Courant | Feb 21