Huskies rally past West Virginia 64-57
Hartford — A struggling UConn men's basketball team desperately needed something good to happen on Monday night.
Trailing by 10 points with just over 11 minutes left, the Huskies were in serious jeopardy of losing their third straight game.
Then they hit West Virginia with a wave of electrifying basketball, washing away all their troubles while securing an inspired 64-57 win in Big East action before a rowdy XL Center crowd.
Their attitude and effort changed when the deficit grew to double digits.
"We just had fire in our eyes," freshman Andre Drummond said. "We were like, 'We're not losing this game no matter what. We're going to get this game.'"
Coach Jim Calhoun gushed about his Huskies (13-3, 3-2). A day earlier in practice, his emotions were quite different, as he rode his team hard.
"It's been a little bit of a rollercoaster recently," Calhoun said. "We hit a hump, as we have in the past in January, and I think we turned it around today and had an inspiring win. … The fans that showed up were more than special."
Drummond delivered the best performance of his young career. He had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and also did a decent defensive job on Big East leading scorer Kevin Jones who had 22 points but only nine in the second half.
"He was special," Calhoun said. "He was the difference in the game."
The No. 17 Huskies finally started finding sophomore Jeremy Lamb, their top offensive weapon. Lamb poured in 17 of his 25 points in the second half.
"This is a great win," Lamb said. "We really, really needed this win. This builds our confidence a whole lot. Coming off two losses, you don't know how good your team is and if you really have fight or not.
"We really wanted to show that we've got fight and we can win and be the team people think we can."
UConn played like the slumping team of the past two games in the first half, falling behind 33-28 at the break. The Huskies were careless with the basketball, making nine turnovers, and had zero offensive rebounds. Jones got hot, sinking three of West Virginia's six 3-pointers.
The momentum completely turned after West Virginia surged to a 46-36 lead with 11:25 remaining. Calhoun was called for a technical foul right before UConn went on a game-changing run.
The Huskies made a few adjustments and fed off their tenacious defense, limiting the Mountaineers (12-5, 3-2) to just 8-for-30 from the field in the second half and 32.3 percent overall.
"We needed some good things to happen to us and we made it happen," Calhoun said. "That's always a coach's dream. Trust me, they didn't fall apart. We made some adjustments."
An alley-oop to Lamb ignited a 15-2 spurt and pumped up the crowd. Drummond scored consecutive inside baskets. Freshman Ryan Boatright turned a steal into a fast-break dunk to tie the score at 48-all with 7:08 left.
Earlier in the half, an angry Calhoun blasted Boatright coming into a timeout.
"I responded well," Boatright said. "I just had to make some plays happen."
Lamb responded, too, after scoring a season-low eight points in Saturday's loss at Rutgers. He converted a 3-pointer for a 51-48 lead.
The game remained tight from there. Jones tied the score at 55-55 with a transition dunk.
Lamb's 15-foot jumper handed the Huskies the lead for good, 57-55, with 2:34 remaining. With UConn leading by one, Drummond scored off a rebound for a 60-57 edge at the 1:27 mark.
The Mountaineers kept misfiring, scoring only 11 points after taking the 10-point lead. The Huskies, who had only three turnovers in the second half, shot 55.3 percent overall.
UConn returns to the road again, visiting Notre Dame Saturday.
"I'm really proud of the way they played, and came back," Calhoun said. "And I'm proud of our fans. It was exhilarating. … That's a terrific win."