UConn makes quick work of Maine
Hartford - Whenever junior Ryan Boatright shows up at Gampel Pavilion for an extra workout, he runs into several UConn teammates.
The Huskies are regularly working overtime on their shooting.
"A lot of guys, I notice, go back to the gym at night," Boatright said. "Last year there was only a few of us taking the initiative and going back and working on their game. Now it's hard to even get a rim in there because everybody is in the gym shooting."
No. 12 UConn continues to reap rewards from its extra workouts.
The Huskies shot a sizzling 56 percent from 3-point range, sinking a season-high 14 in a 95-68 rout of Maine at the XL Center. They carry a 9-0 record into a 12-day exam break.
They're shooting 46.5 percent overall from beyond the arc this season.
"Once again, our 3-point shooting was incredible," coach Kevin Ollie said.
Seven different Huskies hit 3-pointers, making them difficult for any opponent to defend.
Just ask Maine coach Ted Woodward.
Woodward's game plan focused on limiting transition, keeping UConn off the foul line as much as possible and trying to prevent them from attacking the rim. The Black Bears (1-7) played zone but often left perimeter shooters open. The Huskies cashed in, gradually building a huge lead.
"That's a major problem, obviously," Woodward said of UConn's 3-point shooting prowess. "There's only so many things that you can possibly take away. … We hoped that we would challenge enough threes that they weren't going to get comfortable. Obviously, they were very comfortable and did a very good job with that."
UConn's backcourt duo of Shabazz Napier (seven points, eight assists) and Boatright (17 points, five assists) penetrated into the zone and then set up their shooters.
Sophomore Omar Calhoun (4-for-9 from three), Lasan Kromah (3-for-3) and DeAndre Daniels (3-for-3) took advantage of the good ball movement and sagging defense. The Huskies assisted on 23 of 32 field goals.
Calhoun busted out of an offensive funk that saw him convert just 7-of-31 field goals and average 4.6 points over the previous five games. He came out determined to shoot his way back into form and finished with 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting from the field.
"I'm going to try to take this game and keep heading in the right direction," Calhoun said. "You've got to stay confident. The good thing about this, it's a long season. A couple of games aren't going to kill you, especially when you're winning."
"I just kept going in the gym late at night and early in the morning, getting shots up, putting myself in game situations and making sure I had my technique right."
The Huskies needed some lethal 3-point shooting and a jump-start from senior Niels Giffey early on.
Giffey (12 points) energized the Huskies, who came out flat coming off an emotional win over No. 15 Florida on Monday. Giffey scored eight straight points to cap a 19-3 run that pushed UConn in front, 32-15. He fired up the crowd of 9,681 with a steal and dunk.
UConn's 3-point shooters created an even bigger cushion in the second half, sinking four 3-pointers in five possessions in the first six minutes after intermission.
The Huskies are shredding zone defenses this season after struggling last season. They'll face another zone team in Stanford when they return from the exam break on Dec. 18.
"Everybody on our team can really shoot the ball," said Daniels, who had 16 points and five rebounds. "When teams go zone on us, we just spread the court, try to attack the middle and kick it out to a shooter."
Other positive developments on Friday included Napier becoming the fourth UConn player to reach 1,000 points and 500 assists, joining Doron Sheffer, Taliek Brown and Tate George.
It's a safe bet that the Huskies will be back in the gym working overtime in the near future.
"It definitely means we're heading in the right direction," Calhoun said. "We look at it as a positive because everyone wants to get better and do more for the team to win."
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