HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—Connecticut extended its winning streak with another close one.
Sophomore center Hasheem Thabeet had 16 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots and the 13th-ranked Huskies won their 10th straight, rallying from a 13-point deficit in the second half to beat DePaul 65-60 on Tuesday night.
Eight of the wins in the streak have been by single digits, including Saturday’s 74-73 overtime victory at South Florida.
“I would like to get some more blowouts and stop being so nerve-racking all the time,” Huskies guard A.J. Price. “But as long as we keep winning, I’m fine by that.”
Craig Austrie had 14 points and Jeff Adrien added 12 points and 11 rebounds for UConn (21-5, 10-3 Big East).
Draelon Burns had 20 points for DePaul (10-15, 5-8), which has lost six of seven, while Will Walker added 10 points.
The Huskies outscored the Blue Demons 23-7 over the last 10:30 of the game, and held them to three field goals during that stretch.
“We just wouldn’t let them score,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said.
Burns had 10 points in DePaul’s 14-0 run to open the second half that turned a one-point deficit into a 42-29 lead.
Calhoun was forced to use two timeouts during the run, as the Huskies missed their first five shots.
UConn trailed 53-40 with just over 10 minutes to play, then went on an 8-0 run.
The Huskies trailed 57-50 with 5 minutes to play, before Austrie hit a 3-pointer, then a drove for a layup. A block by Thabeet led to a jumper by Price that tied the game at 57 with 4:06 left.
Price, who had been averaging 18.0 points and 6.0 assists during the streak, had six points Tuesday, all in the second half.
“Tonight was one of those nights where other guys stepped up,” Adrien said. “Hasheem, Dougie (Wiggins), Craig and Stanley (Robinson) really stepped up for us tonight and got some points.”
After Burns hit one of two free throws, Thabeet made a spinning layup with 3:31 left to give UConn a 59-58 lead, its first of the second half.
Adrien and Burns exchanged baskets but Burns missed a 3-point attempt that would have given DePaul the lead with under a minute left.
Austrie hit two free throws to give UConn a 63-60 lead. Walker then missed a 3-pointer on the other end, and Robinson iced the game with two foul shots.
“We were down and desperate,” said Austrie, who hit the game-winning shot against South Florida with less than a second to play. “Time was running out. We had to do something, really get something going, so we turned something on and played with a lot of heart the last couple minutes.”
Connecticut took a 12-6 lead thanks to seven points from Thabeet, who hit his first two shots—a hook and a layup—with his left hand.
The Huskies hit eight of their first 12 shots, then went cold, going just 3-of-15 for the rest of the first half as they struggled with the Blue Demons’ zone.
But DePaul had its own shooting troubles, and was 12-of-34 before intermission, and just under 36 percent for the game.
Connecticut, which came into the game leading the nation in blocked shots with 217, finished with 15.
Thabeet had three during the Huskies’ final push.
“I thought that one down the stretch might have been goaltending, but one basket does not determine the game,” DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. “He is such a factor. I only wish our post players might have made a shot or two. I think we could have stopped the run.”
The winning streak is the Huskies’ longest since an 11-game run from Nov. 10-Dec. 27, 2006, and the win was UConn’s seventh over a team the Huskies lost to last season.
DePaul, which joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season, beat the Huskies 66-58 last year in Rosemont, Ill. It was the Huskies’ fifth straight loss during a 17-14 season that saw UConn finish 6-10 in the conference.
Calhoun said the Huskies came into this season with the goal of making the NCAA tournament. With 10 conference wins, UConn’s new goal, he said, is to win the conference title.
But to reach that goal, and go farther, his team will have to play better.
“There were some great efforts down the stretch, but we can’t live on that,” Calhoun said. “If we keep living on that, we will die an unexpected death someplace in the tournament.”