Published January 12. 2014 4:00AM
UConn took a different route to victory on Saturday, relying on a surprisingly productive inside game instead of its usual perimeter-powered attack.
The Huskies gradually pulled away from Central Florida to post their first American Athletic Conference win.
The final: 84-61.
"Guys were just full of energy…," senior Shabazz Napier said. "This is important, because it's our first win in the conference."
Here's a post-game breakdown:
-- Check out the attached video of coach Kevin Ollie's post-game remarks.
-- Ollie on his team's overall performance: "All in all, it was a great game. When we had a chance to knock a team out, we knocked them out. … That's what we want to continue to do."
-- One of the most encouraging developments came in the rebounding department.
The Huskies, one of the worst rebounding teams in the conference, dominated one of the best, holding an impressive 50-34 edge. They had a season-high 18 offensive rebounds and scored 21 second chance points.
It took a team effort, as six different Huskies had at least five rebounds. Freshman Amida Brimah (a career-high eight) and juniors Ryan Boatright (seven) and DeAndre Daniels (seven) led the way.
"Everybody who got in the game pitched in and everybody boxed out and tried to get the rebound," Napier said. "That's what we need from everybody."
The Huskies improved to 7-0 when out-rebounding an opponent.
-- Brimah, a 7-foot center, has consistently been a defensive force but a bit raw on the offensive end. He showed off his developing game on Saturday, scoring a career-high 20 points on 8-for-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line in 20 minutes off the bench. He also had five blocks.
He scored off of dunks, layups and other inside moves. He came in averaging just 2.5 points and had never scored more than seven points.
"The big fella did a good job," UCF coach Donnie Jones said. "They got him the ball and he finished. He had a career night. He impacted the game, not only offensively, but defensively. He bothered us on the other end with his length and blocked shots.
"… Maybe they're gaining more confidence in him."
Brimah didn't do everything right. He misfired on an ill-advised foul line jumper. Ollie didn't approve, screaming at Brimah.
"He wasn't happy," Brimah said.
-- UConn's defense has vastly improved in the last two games after playing poorly in losses at Houston and SMU.
The Huskies held Harvard to 35.7 percent in Wednesday's win and UCF to a season-low 31.3 percent overall.
Ollie said that his team had six kills against the Knights. A kill is three stops in a row.
"When we do that, we're undefeated in two years," Ollie said.
-- Isaiah Sykes, UCF's leading scorer, had a relatively quiet game. He scored the bulk of his 17 points when his team trailed by double digits. He converted 6-of-14 from the field.
Lasan Kromah and Niels Giffey shared the defensive duties.
"They did a tremendous job," Ollie said.
-- Sophomore center Phil Nolan is working his way back into shape after losing some weight and stamina while suffering from the flu a few weeks ago. He had eight points, five rebounds and a block in 15 minutes.
"His energy level was great," Ollie said. "Those are the type of minutes that I want him to play."
The Huskies received 41 points from their bench overall. It was the most points for their reserves since they combined for 47 in a 101-55 win over Detroit on Nov. 14.
-- For the second straight game, Daniels tied his career high for blocks with four. He also had 13 points and seven rebounds.
-- Ollie on his team's 19 assists: "That's the kind of game that I want. Share the basketball."
-- Napier played a great floor game, finishing with 14 points, a season-high 11 assists, five rebounds and a season-high five steals.
-- The Huskies had a season-high 14 blocks.
-- Up next: UConn visits No. 24 Memphis, which won at Temple Saturday and at No. 12 Louisville Thursday.