The Huskies came to the Chicago area figuring they could really get their engine running against DePaul, a less talented team content to try to run and press opponents into the ground. The Huskies had won two in a row and were eager to open up their offense and get Kemba Walker, less efficient of late, going again.
With important, high-profile games upcoming against Villanova and Tennessee, UConn got all it needed on this business trip - 31 points from Kemba and a breezy victory. They quickly headed to the airport after the game and starting preparing for a game two days later against Villanova.
By MIKE ANTHONY
ROSEMONT, Ill. -- DePaul players came at UConn in furious waves Saturday, a frenetic attempt to rattle the Huskies with various styles of full-court pressure.
It was expected.
And handled with ease.
Kemba Walker led an efficient open-court game with 31 points as No. 10 UConn crushed DePaul 82-62 before 9,581 at Allstate Arena.
The Huskies took a 10-2 lead, never trailed, led by 32 in the second half and made the game a laugher with a nice balance of patience and playmaking. It was a test that became a showcase, two hours of crisp basketball after two days spent on ways to counter the DePaul style.
"You don't know what you're going to get, especially with seven freshmen," coach Jim Calhoun said. "Yet we worked on breaking pressure, and they broke it as well as my mature, old teams, my experienced teams. The decision-making ... was excellent."
Get in, get a win, get out and get on with preparation for more daunting tests. That's how this trip to the Chicago area was viewed. The Huskies (14-2, 3-2 Big East) did not overlook an overmatched team, then returned to Connecticut to prepare for Monday's matinee against No. 7 Villanova at Gampel Pavilion.
UConn picked up its second road victory, its first in conference play. The Huskies were 2-9 on the road last season. They entered knowing the game would play to their open-court strengths if they could keep it from being a mess of rushed shots and turnovers.
Walker, reaching 30 for the sixth time this season, made 10 of 17 shots and 9 of 10 free throws, most of his baskets coming within the flow of the offense. He also had five assists, four rebounds and three steals.
"It all came from breaking that press," Walker said. "I was able to find the open spot and take my shot."
Jeremy Lamb returned to the starting lineup and had 13 points, 11 in the first half. Alex Oriakhi had 11 points, and Roscoe Smith added eight points and a team-high seven rebounds. The Huskies used every inch of the court to easily zig-zag through defenders, always finding answers to knock back the Blue Demons (6-11, 0-5).
UConn, which has won three in a row, shot 50.9 percent and made 21 of 25 free throws.
"Walker is a very tough player," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. "We got off to a tough start and kind of battled uphill. Their ability to take care of the ball really hurt us. ... We went to some zone to try to mix it up, but give UConn credit, they did a good job of isolating Walker all the way down the floor."
DePaul has lost 40 of its last 41 conference games. The Blue Demons owned the backboards, outrebounding the Huskies 44-36, but shot just 31.9 percent. Freshman Cleveland Melvin, who chose DePaul after having once committed to UConn, picked up his first double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
"When he shoots, it seems to me that he gets to his own rebound as quick as any kid in the league," Calhoun said. "As he develops his skills, making that shot more, some strength, he's going to be a terrific player. It wouldn't surprise me a couple years down the road if he's an All-Big East player."
Still, UConn had more than enough answers. After Melvin cut the Huskies' lead to 43-34 with a three-point play just before halftime, Shabazz Napier used the remaining 5.4 seconds to race upcourt and feed a cutting Walker under the basket for a reverse layup that beat the buzzer.
The lead peaked at 78-46 on an Oriakhi dunk with 6:46 remaining. Soon, the PA announcer was thanking fans for attending and saying, "Go Bears."
The Huskies, who had a 20-4 advantage in fastbreak points, hadn't run this effectively since a freewheeling victory over Kentucky in the Maui Invitational championship game. After Walker tied a season low with 18 points Tuesday in a victory over Rutgers, Calhoun talked to him about remaining aggressive and looking to score.
Walker responded with 22 points in the first half. He has led UConn in scoring every game.
"It is hard to play against, but over the years, against Louisville and some of those people, we've been at times very successful against pressure," Calhoun said. "It's an opportunity to run. It makes us run, which is what I want our team to do."