- Kieran Darcy, ESPN Staff Writer
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Connecticut beats DePaul in the first round of the Big East tournament, 81-67:
Overview: Connecticut (19-12, 8-10 Big East), the No. 9 seed in the Big East tournament, picks up a much-needed win for its NCAA tournament résumé -- a loss to last-place DePaul (12-19, 3-15) could have knocked the Huskies out of the field of 68.
It wasn't quite as easy as some may have expected, but UConn advances to the second round on Wednesday.
Turning point: DePaul hung around for most of the first 20 minutes, but a 6-0 UConn run to end the first half gave the Huskies their largest lead at that point, 46-33, at intermission.
Then UConn opened the second half on a 15-4 spurt, capped off by a Roscoe Smith trey, and the outcome was essentially no longer in doubt. UConn took its foot off the gas pedal, and DePaul actually winnowed the deficit all the way down to nine, 70-61. But that was as close as the Blue Demons got.
Key player: Jeremy Lamb, who was really impressive in last year's Big East tournament as a freshman, got off to a great start in this one as well, finishing with 25 points, five rebounds and four assists. Lamb shot 10-for-17 from the field and 3-for-6 from 3-point range. UConn will need more of that from Lamb to continue to advance.
Miscellaneous: There are some games, like this one, where you watch UConn and it's hard to believe the Huskies were only 18-12 in the regular season -- particularly with their size on the front line. ... UConn's freshmen stepped up in this game as well. Ryan Boatright was huge, with 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds off the bench. Andre Drummond also chipped in 12 points. ... Give DePaul a lot of credit for not packing it in when it fell behind so big early in the second half. Backup guard Moses Morgan, who played just nine minutes in the first half and scored three points, erupted for 16 points in the second half, making five of his six 3-point attempts from 3-point range. ... Cleveland Melvin, an All-Big East honorable mention selection, also scored 19 points for the Blue Demons.
What’s next: UConn will square off against No. 8 seed West Virginia on Wednesday at noon. The winner of that game will get the pleasure of facing top-seeded Syracuse in Thursday's quarterfinals.
Can UConn run the table again here in New York? The Huskies' epic five-wins-in-five-days-run last year began with a win against DePaul in the first game of the entire tournament.
DePaul's season, on the other hand, is over. The Blue Demons still have won only one Big East tournament game since joining the conference.