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Louisville 73, Connecticut 58

The SportsXchange

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Russ Smith scored 23 points, Chane Behanan added 16 points and nine rebounds, and newly minted No. 1 Louisville overcame a 10-point first-half deficit to protect its top ranking with a convincing 73-58 victory over upset-minded Connecticut on Monday night.

Peyton Siva added 11 points, and Gorgui Dieng pulled down 16 rebounds for the Cardinals (16-1, 4-0 Big East). Louisville won its 11th straight game just hours after learning it was the top-ranked team in the country, capitalizing on weekend losses by Duke and Michigan to vault two spots in the Associated Press' Top 25 poll.

It's just the second time in school history Louisville has been on top, the only other occurrence coming in the final poll of the 2008-09 season.

Freshman Omar Calhoun led the Huskies (12-4, 2-2) with 20 points, while Shabazz Napier scored 12 and Ryan Boatright had 11. UConn had won six of its last seven games, including a victory over then-No. 17 Notre Dame on Saturday, but it fell to 2-7 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams in the AP Top 25.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino said before the game that he thought "the top teams will play musical chairs for No. 1 for the next two months."

The Cardinals clearly sat down just in time.

They quickly turned a six-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead with a 19-5 run early in the second half. Smith scored four points, Siva added two, and a put-back from Behanan capped an 8-0 surge and tied the game at 36-36 with 17:10 remaining.

Calhoun and Smith traded treys before Louisville engineered another 7-0 spurt, including a three-point play from Behanan and a slicing, coast-to-coast layup by Siva, for a 46-41 lead with 14:29 left to play.

Three free throws by Calhoun at the 10:07 mark of the half helped the Huskies creep within 47-43, ending a span of 5:35 without a point.

That's as close as they'd get, though.

With the energetic crowd on its feet hoping to spur a comeback, Louisville kept its composure and promptly ran off 13 straight points, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Siva, a slam by Dieng and six consecutive points from Luke Hancock, to take its biggest lead of the night to that point at 60-44 with 7:49 left.

With the game all but out of reach, Boatright hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with 6:42 to play, ending a drought of nine minutes without a field goal for UConn.

After shooting 53.8 percent (14 of 26) in the opening 20 minutes, the Huskies couldn't buy a bucket in the second half, going just 7 of 27 (25.9 percent) from the field.

UConn got eight straight points from Napier, and DeAndre Daniels drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put the Huskies in front 13-8 with under 14 minutes to go in the first half.

Napier then calmly sank a step-back jumper along the baseline, giving him all 10 of his first-half points in the opening eight minutes and staking UConn to a 15-10 advantage. Smith soon scored four straight points, and the Cardinals tied it at 17-17.

It was all Huskies from there before halftime.

Calhoun scored eight straight UConn points, and Daniels capped a 12-2 run with an emphatic, one-handed dunk to put the Huskies up by 10 with 4:32 to play before intermission.

Smith -- who scored 15 first-half points on 7-of-13 shooting -- responded with a 3-pointer from the corner to bring Louisville within 29-24. After another 3 from Boatright, the Cardinals cut the deficit to four with 36 seconds left on a bucket from Behanan.

Following a missed 3-pointer in the waning seconds, Calhoun pulled down the offensive rebound and dropped it through as the buzzer sounded to send the Huskies into the locker room leading by six.

NOTES: Monday's game was the 14th all-time meeting between the two schools. ... Louisville's 16-1 start to the season is its best since opening the 2003-04 season at 16-1. ... Siva scored 17 points against South Florida on Saturday to become the Cardinals' 64th career 1,000-point scorer. ... UConn fell to 1-2 all-time at home against No. 1-ranked teams, having lost to Kansas in 1997 and beaten Texas in 2010. ... The Huskies slipped to 229-84 in regular-season games at the XL Center -- formerly the Hartford Civic Center. They are now 4-1 at the XL Center this season.
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