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Okafor, Gordon continue UConn's opener streak

11/24/2002

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Emeka Okafor admitted to some opening night
jitters Saturday but he seemed to shed them in a hurry.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore dominated the post with 12 rebounds, 16
points and three blocks as 14th-ranked Connecticut beat intrastate
rival Quinnipiac 91-72 in the season-opener for both teams.

"I was a little anxious," Okafor said. "You try to get the
season kicked off right."

UConn (1-0) has kicked off the last 17 seasons with a win under
coach Jim Calhoun.

Ben Gordon led the Huskies with 22 points and three steals. He
and backcourt mate Taliek Brown pushed the tempo all game and
against the Bobcats. Led by Okafor, UConn outscored Quinnipiac
58-12 in the paint and had a 45-37 rebounding edge.

"We're a real versatile team. We have a lot of combinations,"
said Okafor, who set a freshman school record last season with 138
blocks. "We can run for days."

Often those combinations were a three-guard lineup of Brown,
Gordon and Tony Robertson off the bench and various small forwards
leaving Okafor the big man in the middle.

"I wouldn't call it a burden, it's just my part," Okafor said.
"Everybody's going to do their part on this team to help us win."

Brown finished with 16 points and had a game-high 10 assists.
Robertson scored 10 for UConn.

The Bobcats, in their fifth year of Division I ball, are winless
against the Huskies in four meetings. UConn extended its winning
streak over non-Big East New England rivals to 78.

"I don't think we were as prepared as we should have been for
tonight's game," Quinnipiac coach Joe DeSantis. "But we didn't
quit. It was a good thing for us because we were thrown right into
the fire."

Gordon scored seven points in a 19-8 first half run that helped
the Huskies pull away. His 3-pointer with 6:37 capped the spurt and
gave UConn a 33-20 lead.

The Huskies led by as many 17 in the first half, dominating the
post and hitting 14 of 16 from the foul line to take a 48-33 lead
at the break. The Bobcats would get no closer than 15 the rest of
the way.

Although he was pleased with the running game, Calhoun said the
Huskies need to be more consistent on defense.

"You've got to take every moment that you're on the court
seriously," Calhoun said. "And you could see the guys that did.
The older guys did and the younger guys have got to catch up. It's
simple."

Rob Monroe led Quinnipiac with 15 points. Rashaun Banjo and C.J.
Vick had 11 apiece for the Bobcats.

Quinnipiac's Jeremy Bishop, the leading rebounder in the NCAA
last season with 11.9 a game, had five boards and six points before
fouling out with 11 minutes left.