Huskies get away with win in another inconsistent performance
Storrs - Mental lapses piled up Sunday afternoon, threatening to derail UConn.
Twice, the Huskies built 16-point leads.
Twice, they let up, allowing Harvard to creep back into the game.
But survival mode eventually kicked in and No. 14 UConn escaped with a 79-73 victory at Gampel Pavilion.
Inconsistent play continues to be the trademark of this team, which has bounced back and forth between brilliant and bumbling.
"You take 20 minutes of the game and say it's magnificent and 20 minutes of the game, it's awful," coach Jim Calhoun said. "Harvard we were better than talent-wise, but they're a very good team. They played 40 minutes the same way. When we let up, they took advantage of it. That's what good teams do."
Nothing has come easy for the Huskies (6-1), who next play No. 5 Kentucky (7-0) Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The high-wire act will eventually cost UConn.
"If we play in spurts against Kentucky, we can't beat them," Calhoun said. "Kentucky is the most talented team in the country."
UConn's top-scoring trio of Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker led the way. Dyson came within an assist of his first triple-double, finishing with 24 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and career-high-tying nine assists. Walker had a season-high tying 20 points and Robinson added 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Even Dyson made his share of mistakes, forcing shots on his way to an 8-for-23 performance, including missing 11 of his last 12 attempts. He went 5-for-8 from the foul line in the final 1:17.
"He was brilliant at times," Calhoun said. "He's better than anyone on the team, but he's also reflective of our team."
Harvard (6-2) stuck around because of the outstanding play of senior Jeremy Lin, a fearless and deceptively quick guard. After going scoreless for the first 16 minutes, Lin got hot, ending up with a career-high tying 30 points, including 22 in the second half.
At times, defensive lapses left Lin open for shots. Coming out of a timeout, UConn somehow lost track of him on an inbounds play near midcourt leading to an easy dunk during a 10-0 spurt that cut a 16-point deficit to six (58-52) with nine minutes remaining.
Dyson had the difficult task of trying to guard Lin, who even banked in a contested 3-pointer to narrow the gap to 72-67 with 1:07 remaining. That's as close as the Crimson would get until the final seven seconds.
"I was running around chasing (Lin) the whole game," Dyson said. "He's a great player. He made a lot of shots for them and kept them in the game. … I'm definitely tired after that game."
UConn looked good in transition in racing out to leads of 33-17 and 58-42. But the Huskies stopped running and bogged down in the halfcourt, shooting just 8-for-25 in the second half and 42.4 percent overall. They also struggled from the foul line (27-of-41).
Meanwhile, the patient Crimson used crisp ball movement to search out high percentage shots late in the shot clock.
"We just kind of relaxed a little bit," said senior Gavin Edwards who had 12 points, five rebounds and a career-high six blocks.
"Even when we had possessions where we were playing good defense, we kind of let up in the end and gave up a bucket. We should have played everything through and not played in spurts like we have been."
Calhoun's concerns are many, from mental lapses to holes in the frontcourt to his ineffective bench, which was outscored, 27-14.
"We didn't play a full game," Calhoun said. "We keep fooling with Mother Nature and she'll put that lightning bolt right through us. That's the thing that scares me."
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