STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut, in its first year post-Jim Calhoun, isn't eligible for the Big East tournament or any other postseason play this season because of an NCAA infractions battle.
That means every game in the regular season is just a bit more important to the talented basketball team.
"Definitely, definitely, because that game that you're playing you're not going to get back," guard Ryan Boatright said after his 22 points helped the Huskies rout undermanned DePaul 99-78 Tuesday in UConn's conference home opener. "We know (there's) a deadline on our season, and we have to try and pile up these wins and compete for the Big East regular-season championship because that's all we can go for.
"The more we can pile up on these wins, and when we get to 'Cuse and Louisville and stuff like that, the better it'll be."
UConn (11-3, 1-1 Big East) earned their fifth win in the past six games.
Bouncing back from an overtime loss at Marquette in the league opener on New Year's Day, the Huskies got a career-high 26 points and eight rebounds from DeAndre Daniels, plus a perfect floor game from Shabazz Napier (16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers).
With Calhoun seated at a table behind the baseline and Kevin Ollie
, recently rewarded with a multiyear contract, now coaching, the Huskies scored the game's first nine points and never trailed. They overcame a career-high 35 points by DePaul's Brandon Young and came through with the most points for the program in a regulation Big East game since the Huskies beat Seton Hall 99-57 on Feb. 11, 2006.
The last time UConn scored 100 in a regulation Big East game was Dec. 12, 1999. That team went on to win the national championship. No such potential prize awaits this year's group.
"There's always a prize at the end," said Ollie. "We're not going to the tournament. So what? We're playing each and every day, people are still watching you, you still have pride to put on that jersey. That's the prize. That's the goal. You get an opportunity to put on a jersey. You get the opportunity to wake up in the morning and go to a great university. And if guys pay attention to that, we're fine.
"That's what they've been doing. I've got a terrific group. I love them to death, and they play very well, but we do have a prize, and that's every day trying to get better. That's our prize."
Cleveland Melvin scored 18 points, blocked five shots and had five rebounds for the Blue Demons (10-6, 1-2 Big East). DePaul was missing starters Donnavan Kirk and Charles McKinney; both were suspended for the game by coach Oliver Purnell for violating team rules.
Purnell said he expects it to be a one-game penalty, but missing Kirk, a 6-foot-9 shot-blocker (29 blocks), made a difference.
UConn, which had outrebounded only two opponents, ran up a 49-29 rebound advantage and had 19 offensive boards.
"I was really disappointed with the way we played tonight," said Purnell, whose team won at Providence in the opener of a two-game trip and was bidding for a 5-0 road record. "We've been playing really confident, with a hard edge, on the road all year long. I just don't feel like we had that tonight. Of their first 16 shots, UConn rebounded 10 of them.
"Seventy-eight (points) in a college basketball game is not bad. It should be a close game. But when you're giving up that many offensive rebounds, that many high-percentage shots, it makes it hard, if not impossible, to win."
Young, whose previous career best was 31, also had five assists, four rebounds and two steals. He was guilty of five of his team's 15 turnovers.
DePaul, which trailed by 20 at the break, held UConn to one field goal while crawling back within 12 with 14:17 left in the game. But the Huskies then ran off a 16-4 spurt to blow it open again.
"First Big East win. I'm happy," Ollie said.
NOTES: Tyler Olander had 10 points and five rebounds for UConn, which led by as many as 25 piints. ... Daniels' previous career high was 23, against Harvard last month, but he had been struggling. He sat out most of the final minutes in the loss at Marquette after suffering a cut chin. He was replaced by Niels Giffey, who played well. ... DePaul returns home for a two-game homestand, against Cincinnati next Tuesday and St. John's on Jan. 19, while UConn visits Notre Dame on Saturday and hosts Louisville in Hartford on Monday. ... DePaul was off to a 4-0 true road start for the first time since the 1993-94 team was 5-0 on the road at the start of the season. The Blue Demons were looking for back-to-back Big East road wins for the first time since January 2007. That was during DePaul's last winning season. ... UConn is set to play three more games on campus the rest of the season, hosting South Florida, Georgetown and Providence. The rest are in Hartford. ... DePaul registered its 595th consecutive game with at least one made 3-pointer, a streak that started in February 1993. The Demons' first two baskets Tuesday were 3-pointers. ... A loss would have meant UConn's first 0-2 Big East start since 1989-90.
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