Adrien, Thabeet help UConn overpower Fairfield
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—After winning a final tuneup for Big East play, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun is well aware of the obstacles that lie ahead for his undefeated team.
Jeff Adrien scored 21 points, Hasheem Thabeet had 20 and the second-ranked Huskies dominated down low against undersized Fairfield in a 75-55 victory Friday night.
“I was really happy at certain things we did. I just don’t like us not playing every single play, because you only get so many a year,” Calhoun said. “We’ve had 11 chances to get it done, and we’ve done it, but we have 19 Big East games. I’m including Michigan as a Big East game because they’re as good as anybody in our league. We have 19 wars starting on Monday and we better be prepared to put everybody together.”
Adrien also grabbed 14 rebounds while Thabeet added 11 rebounds and six blocks for the Huskies (11-0), who have won 64 consecutive games against in-state opponents. Their last loss to a Connecticut team came against Hartford in 1986, Calhoun’s first season as coach.
“When I was born, basically,” Adrien said.
Calhoun was concerned his team might have a letdown in this one after rallying for an overtime victory against Gonzaga last Saturday. He also worried that his players might look ahead to Monday’s Big East opener against Georgetown.
But the Huskies, led by Thabeet, their 7-foot-3 center, shot 50 percent from the field and outscored Fairfield 48-22 in the paint. Adrien and Thabeet combined to shoot 18-of-25 from the floor.
Greg Nero scored 16 points for the Stags (8-4), who had won seven straight. Fairfield shot 31.9 percent and had only five free throw attempts.
“I thought our frontcourt just got physically overwhelmed. That was the game,” Fairfield coach Ed Cooley said.
Thabeet and Adrien combined to score 26 points in the first half and UConn overcame a slow start to take 42-26 lead at halftime. The Huskies took control with a 21-5 run in which Thabeet scored 10 points and Adrien six, all on dunks or baskets in close.
“Jeff might have had his best game of the year,” Calhoun said.
Adrien began an 8-0 spurt with a dunk, the first of 10 by the Huskies, to put them on top 15-14 midway through the half. UConn never trailed after that.
Thabeet scored the next six points. He made a shot in the lane and excited the crowd of 13,771 with a one-handed, alley-oop dunk off a feed from Jerome Dyson. On UConn’s next possession, Thabeet’s left-handed hook shot made it 21-14.
Dyson’s 3-pointer started a 9-0 run that featured two dunks by Thabeet and one by Adrien that made it 32-18. After a free throw by Nero, Stanley Robinson dunked on an alley-oop pass from freshman Kemba Walker, who contributed nine points and four assists in 22 minutes off the bench.
“That was an important game for Kemba,” Calhoun said. “He needed to get back on stride and he certainly did, I thought, late.”
But UConn’s top three guards struggled. Dyson had 10 points and six assists, but he was 4-of-14 from the field and made just one of his six 3-point attempts. A.J. Price was 2-of-7 from the field and Craig Austrie 1-for-4.
“Against Gonzaga, our outside players were just absolutely sensational,” Calhoun said. “Tonight against Fairfield, our inside players were sensational. Our outside players were OK. We’re going to need that backcourt and that frontcourt to match up together to have the type of games we’re capable of.”