HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Seeing Connecticut run the court on film
is one thing. Trying to keep up with the No. 6 Huskies is another.
Ben Gordon scored 24 points and the Huskies got another
dominating inside performance from Emeka Okafor in a 93-65 win over
Central Connecticut and former longtime UConn assistant Howie
Dickenman. "They're as fast as any team in the country,'' Dickenman said.
"They're quicker in person than when you watch them on tape.'' Okafor, the nation's leading shot-blocker with an average of 5.4
rejections, grabbed 11 rebounds and accounted for eight of 14
blocks by UConn (8-0). "He's intimidating. He's in the back of our players' mind,''
Dickenman said. "He blocked eight, but he probably altered or
psychologically was responsible for four or five misses.'' Okafor had 15 points and four blocks in the first half, and
scored six of UConn's final eight points in the period. His basket
with 1:55 left gave the Huskies a 22-point lead, their largest of
the half at 45-23. "The guards were doing a good job of finding me,'' Okafor said.
"They wouldn't waste time. They gave it to me right away and let
me do my thing.'' Central's Ricardo Scott countered with back-to-back scores and
Denham Brown capped the scoring for UConn with a jumper as the
Huskies held a 47-27 lead at the break. The game marked the first matchup between UConn coach Jim
Calhoun and Dickenman, who took over at Central, his alma mater,
before the 1996-97 season. The Huskies lead the series 11-0. Central (3-4), which was coming off two straight losses,
overcame some team illnesses and has had to shuffle its lineup
after senior Damian Battles, last season's second-leading scorer,
left the team earlier this month. "They looked like a banged up basketball team,'' Calhoun said.
"We looked like a very good basketball team.'' Calhoun's fears that his team would be rusty from the holiday
break were unfounded. "We lacked a little focus at times but we weren't really rusty
energy-wise,'' Calhoun said. "I keep saying that may be the key
this team -- energy with focus. We can get up and down the court
very well if the game is allowed to flow that way.'' The Huskies started quickly in the second half as Gordon scored
eight points in a 9-0 run in the first 90 seconds of the period.
The Huskies extended their lead to 43 points when Chad Wise's
3-pointer made it 85-42 with 7:22 to play. Jon Popofski shot 5-for-8 from 3-point range and led Central
with 18 points. Scott added 16 points. The Huskies outscored the Blue Devils 54-20 in the paint and
shot 60 percent from the field. UConn also got big contributions
from its reserves, outscoring the Blue Devil reserves 43-19. Tony
Robertson finished with 19 points to lead Connecticut's subs. "It becomes apparent every game that the total effect of our
bench gets onto another team,'' Calhoun said. "There's no way to
relax, no way to put your starters out because our bench can really
score some points.''