STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Even without leading scorer and rebounder
Emeka Okafor, No. 2 Connecticut still had too much firepower for
After all, the Huskies still had Ben Gordon.
Gordon scored 28 points, hitting on eight of 13 3-pointers and
the Huskies cruised to an 88-55 win over the Bobcats. Bothered by
chronic back pain, Okafor dressed but did not play, missing his
first start in 75 games. He was averaging 16.4 points, 11 rebounds
and nearly five blocks.
"We've got a pretty good team and anytime one of us is injured
or can't play we have more than enough guys that can back us up and
make a positive contribution," Gordon said.
Hilton Armstrong made his 23rd start in place of the ailing
Okafor and pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds. Okafor whispered
a few words of encouragement to the 6-foot-11 understudy as
Armstrong took the court for tip-off.
"He told me to stay on my feet on defense and don't rush
anything," Armstrong said. "Just let the game come to me and play
as hard as I can."
Armstrong made an impact quickly with eight points, eight
rebounds and two blocks in the first half. His tap-in with 9:13
left and three straight 3-pointers by Gordon pushed the Huskies to
a 30-14 lead and the Bobcats (2-5) never threatened after that.
"Sometimes Emeka's out there and I just try to relax a little
bit. But I knew he wasn't out there so I just tried to go as hard
as I can," Armstrong said.
He finished with 11 points and a career-high four blocks.
Gordon helped the Huskies (7-1) build a 46-20 halftime lead,
hitting seven of nine 3-pointers that included two in the final 47
seconds. His eight 3-pointers were one off the school record set by
Ray Allen in a 78-66 win over Rutgers in 1996.
When Gordon hit his final 3-pointer with 14:28 left in the game
it was his 26th point, one more than Quinnipiac had and the crowd
let the Bobcats know it by chanting "Gordon's leading."
"I think offensively without Emeka we were looking for somebody
and No. 4 (Gordon) appeared," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "And
our defense got rewarded by some terrific offense by Ben."
Armstrong anchored a dominant post that outrebounded Quinnipiac
54-41 and held a 46-12 scoring edge in the paint. Denham Brown
finished with a career-high 11 boards for UConn. The Huskies
blocked nine shots and held the Bobcats to just under 35 percent
shooting for the game.
Charlie Villanueva added 15 points for UConn, which holds a 55-2
edge over in-state opponents under Calhoun. The Huskies posted wins
earlier this season over Yale and Sacred Heart.
Calhoun said he thought his team had just enough nervousness
playing without Okafor to come out with a solid defensive game.
Quinnpiac coach Joe DeSantis saw it a different way.
"(UConn) came out with a passion," DeSantis said. "Ben Gordon
was on his way to the single-best performance I've ever seen. They
still had enough to beat us."