West Virginia 58

(12-8, 4-5 Big East)

(5) Connecticut 88

(19-3, 7-1 Big East)

    2:00 PM ET, February 7, 2004

    Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut

    1 2 T
    WVU 31 2758
    #5CONN 36 5288

    Huskies shot 68 percent from floor in second half

    STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut is halfway through its Big East schedule, and coach Jim Calhoun likes what he's seen.

    The fifth-ranked Huskies (19-3, 7-1 Big East) got 24 points from Ben Gordon, 23 from Emeka Okafor and committed just three turnovers Saturday in an 88-58 win over West Virginia. The three turnovers were a 25-year low for the program.

    "I couldn't be happier with our performance. That's the kind of team we've struggled with in the past, a team that tried to grind us down," Calhoun said. "I thought we were able to use our talent and our speed."

    Gordon snapped out of a mini-slump for UConn, which shot 68 percent in the second half. Averaging 13 points the last five games, Gordon found his stroke and his confidence against the Mountaineers with 10-of-17 shooting.

    "I just kind of got into a rhythm," Gordon said. "I haven't been shying away from taking open shots. I just have to have faith in myself that if my teammates give me the ball in an open spot I can make the shot."

    Kevin Pittsnogle led the Mountaineers (12-8, 4-5) with 17 points.

    Okafor also had 10 rebounds and six blocks as UConn dominated inside, outscoring the Mountaineers 54-20 in the paint. The Huskies converted West Virginia's 12 turnovers into 23 points, getting out quickly in transition and usually finishing the break with Okafor inside.

    "I continue to be amazed by the balls that Emeka Okafor catches," Calhoun said. "It's almost unbelievable to think that a guy can be going that fast and catch a basketball and still lay the ball up."

    The game had two of the nation's top shot blockers in Okafor (4.8 per game) and D'Or Fischer, averaging just under four per game. Fischer matched Okafor with six blocks, added 10 points and seven rebounds, but got little help from his teammates.

    UConn had a five-point lead at halftime and used runs of 13-4 and 20-9 in the second half to take control.

    "The fact that they have so many people that can pass the ball and not turn it over is absolutely incredible," West Virginia coach John Beilein said. "That's what makes them so difficult to defend. They are unselfish and they value the basketball."

    Charlie Villanueva scored 16 points in his first start for the Huskies in place of Josh Boone, who injured his shoulder in an 84-56 win over Syracuse on Monday. Villanueva helped the Huskies grab 22 offensive rebounds.

    "Coach has always emphasized offensive rebounds, and if the ball goes up, I'm going to go after the ball," Villanueva said.

    UConn hit just 10 of its first 30 shots before warming up in the second half.

    Patrick Beilein gave the Mountaineers an early boost off the bench, hitting three 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes, and the teams traded leads eight times in the first half.

    Villanueva had five points in a 9-2 run late in the first half to give UConn a 36-29 lead with just under a minute to play. Pittsnogle hit a jumper in the lane with 2 seconds left to cut UConn's lead to 36-31 at the break.

    Okafor, who finished 11-of-18, said he, like his coach, was proud of the Huskies' sure-handed ball-handling.

    "The smile on his face puts a smile on our face," Okafor said. "At this point every win is crucial as far as our confidence and trying to separate ourselves from the pack."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2003-04 Season

    » Feb 7, 2004 @CONN 88, WVU 58Recap