HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—A.J. Price hasn’t felt this good in years.
Connecticut’s sophomore point guard, who missed one season to brain surgery and was suspended for another after being involved in the sale of stolen computers, scored 23 points Sunday in leading the No. 21 Huskies to a 77-59 win over Mississippi in the Hispanic College Fund Classic.
Price hit 9 of 13 shots, had four assists and just three turnovers.
“I haven’t had that feeling since probably AAU, just being out there and playing really hard on both ends of the floor and just having fun for 40 minutes,” Price said. “It felt really good out there.”
While Price was controlling most of the floor, teammate Jeff Adrien was taking charge in the paint. The 6-foot-7 sophomore had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut (4-0), giving him a double-double in each of the Huskies’ first four games.
UConn, which has led the nation in blocked shots for five consecutive years, had nine against Ole Miss (4-1), three each by Adrien and 7-foot-3 freshman center Hasheem Thabeet.
“We ran the ball, we rebounded very well,” said UConn coach Jim Calhoun. “Jeff’s been a horse for us. Hasheem controls that middle.”
Freshman guard Jerome Dyson added 16 points for UConn, and Marcus Johnson had 10.
There were six lead changes in the early going, but Connecticut broke the game open midway through the first half, thanks in large part to Price and Adrien.
Tied at 14, Price hit a 3-pointer to give the Huskies the lead for good.
Up 17-16, the Huskies went on an 8-0 run. When Price found Adrien with a no-look pass in the lane, his short jumper made it 33-22. The Huskies stretched the lead to 39-23 at the half, when Curtis Kelly shot an air ball, but Johnson grabbed it and sank a reverse layup at the buzzer.
Connecticut led by as many as 23 points in the second half, before Old Miss used a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 63-48 with just over six minutes left.
Ole Miss felt the absence of junior center Dwayne Curtis, who has missed the first five games of the season with a broken bone in his left foot. The Rebels shot just 35 percent from the field and were outrebounded 44-31.
“As a front line, we were 4-for-21 tonight,” coach Andy Kennedy said. “It becomes a bit demoralizing when you get the ball when you want it if you can’t finish in close.”
Bam Doyne led Ole Miss with 16 points. Clarence Sanders and Todd Abernethy had 13 apiece.
After winning the season opener by just seven points over Quinnipiac, the Huskies rolled through this tournament, winning by 29 over Central Arkansas, 25 over Fairfield and 18 over the Rebels.
“I’m leaving satisfied with our team, given who we are,” Calhoun said of his eight freshmen and five sophomores. “It’s the first time around for almost everybody here. I saw some signs tonight that I really, really liked.”