Published January 31. 2014 4:00AM
Talk about a dramatic difference.
UConn went from looking sluggish in a 75-71 loss in the first meeting against Houston on Dec. 31 to running away with an 80-43 victory in Thursday’s rematch at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies (17-4, 5-3) won for the sixth time in the last seven games and posted their largest margin of victory in American Athletic Conference play. They are tied for fourth place with SMU in the standings.
And they did it without starting forward DeAndre Daniels, who’s still recovering from a high right ankle sprain suffered in Saturday’s win at Rutgers.
“That was a great game by us (and) a team effort,” coach Kevin Ollie said.
Here’s a post-game breakdown and video:
-- Check out the attached video of senior Shabazz Napier’s post-game remarks.
-- Napier led the Huskies in scoring for the team-high 10th time this season. He had 19 points and seven rebounds.
In the last four games, he’s averaging 25.5 points per game. He also moved past Jeff Adrien and into 14th place on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,614 points.
A Massachusetts native, he will have his jersey retired during a ceremony at Charlestown High School tonight.
-- UConn never trailed, bolting to a 31-9 advantage. The Huskies had their biggest lead at halftime this season at 51-22 (29).
“We jumped on them from the start and from there they could never get their rhythm,” said junior Ryan Boatright.
-- The Huskies continue to make strides in the rebounding department. They won the battle of the boards (55-40) for the sixth time in the last seven games and improved to 11-0 when on the plus side.
In the first meeting, Houston held a 34-30 edge.
Entering Thursday’s game, UConn ranked third in rebounding margin in AAC games.
-- UConn dominated under the basket, scoring more points in the paint (32-18) and more second chance points (21-12).
Freshman center Kentan Facey had a career-best game for the Huskies, hitting highs in points (7) and blocks (3) and also adding seven rebounds in 16 minutes. Sophomore forward Phil Nolan added 10 points -- all in the first half -- and seven rebounds.
-- Houston shot exactly 9-for-33 from the field in each half. The Cougars finished at 27.3 percent. Leading scorer TaShawn Thomas had a season-low four points.
“We tried to focus on defense,” Nolan said. “Rotation is the key.”
-- Senior Niels Giffey played well starting in place of Daniels. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
-- Houston coach James Dickey: “This is a great league. If you’re not ready to play when you go on the road, you can get blown out.”
-- Boatright buried a 3-pointer right before the halftime buzzer and then hit another one to open the second half. He had 15 points overall.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call them statement shots,” Boatright said. “I was just taking what was there.”
-- Up next: UConn will take a few days off before preparing for next Thursday’s showdown at league-leading Cincinnati (20-2, 9-0).
Barring a setback, Daniels should be ready to play by next week.