The Huskies made North Carolina State work for it. They sprawled for loose balls, clawed for what rebounds they could get and made more than their share of steals.
But in the end, the Wolfpack had too many answers and beat UConn 69-65 in the Jimmy V. Classic men's basketball showdown at Madison Square Garden Tuesday.
UConn, which began this season with an upset of Michigan State, a ranked team, was trying to pull off another on national TV, and like that game the Huskies started out with a flurry. But N.C. State was too big, too fast, too deep and ultimately contained UConn's guards, leaving the Huskies without other scoring options.
UConn opened an early 11-point lead, forcing turnovers, getting open three-point shots and hitting them and, surprisingly, holding their own in rebounding against a much bigger team. Omar Calhoun's three-point goal gave the Huskies a 20-9 lead midway through the first half.
The the Wolfpack began asserting themselves on the boards and burning the Huskies with fast-break points. They came back to tie the game, and took a 32-31 lead into the half on Lorenzo Brown's runner.
Shabazz Napier had 15 points in the first half, as Huskies guards were talking on an even bigger share of the scoring than usual.
But in the second half, N.C. State really dominated inside, pulling away in the rebounding column, even though Enosch Wolf (12 points, nine rebounds) gave UConn some effective play in place of Tyler Olander.
NC State could not pull away, though. The Wolfpack opened six-point leads down the stretch, but UConn came back with a Boatright three to get close again.
When brown hit one of two from the line, NC State led 64-58 with 42 seconds left. When Scott Wood hit both with 31.6 seconds left, it was back to six at 66-60 and finally looked safe.
Brown scored 16, C.J. Leslie 15, Scott Wood 13 and Richard Howell, really a dominating presence in the second half, 13 for the 25th-ranked Wolfpack (5-2). Napier, who drew a lot more defensive attention in the second half, finished with 19, Boatright 18 for the Huskies (6-2).
The Huskies came out executing the offensive pattern that worked so well in the second half against Stony Brook, penetration to set up open three-pointers. Shabazz Napier, reversing the pattern of his recent games, developed the hot hand early on. He scored UConn's first 10 points, with three three-pointers and a free throw.
That performance ignited an impressive UConn run, with DeAndre Daniels and Omar Calhoun also hitting threes. UConn was ball-hawking, getting turnovers, including a steal and layup by Boatright. Calhoun's three gave UConn a 20-9 lead with 10:32 left in the first half.
When R.J. Evans, back from his injury, stole the ball at midcourt and went in for a layup, UConn had the chance to extend its lead, but Evans couldn't finish and the Wolfpack went on a run, scoring eight in a row to get back in it at 20-17 with 8:55 to go.
The Huskies offense had become stagnant, and NC State tied the game at 24 with 5:28 to go, and took the lead on a T.J. Warren basket with 3:45 to go.
Napier, who finished the half with 15 points, hit another three to put UConn back ahead. Lorenzo Brown's runner, though, gave the Wolfpack the last points of the half, and a 32-31 lead going into the break.
UConn was holding its own in rebounding with a much bigger opponent, 20-to-17 at halftime. The Wolfpack got the ball inside to massive Richard Howell, a very tough matchup for Tyler Olander, in the second half, and he powered in a couple of baskets to give N.C. State a 39-35 lead with 15:24 left in the game.
It began to look like it was unraveling for UConn, but the Huskies snapped back at it, tying the game at 43 on an Evans basket with 11:58 to go. Typical of the Huskies' effort, R.J. Evans made a layup and drew a foul. He missed the free throw, but Niels Giffey sprawled to the floor to get the loose ball. UConn was down by a point, 46-45, and did not convert that opportunity.
Enosch Wolf, by this point, was playing in place of the struggling Olander and playing effectively. His jumper pulled the Huskies within one again at 48-47 as the game moved to the final 10 minutes.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun