Thabeet, UConn too much for MiamiNov 24, 2008 - 4:23 AM ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands (Ticker) -- A return to form for Hasheem Thabeet has Connecticut playing for a championship.
Thabeet had 19 points and 14 rebounds as second-ranked Connecticut started strong and held on for a 76-63 victory over No. 16 Miami in Sunday's semifinals of the Paradise Jam.
A.J. Price scored 13 points, Jerome Dyson added 12 and freshman Kemba Walker chipped in 11 for the Huskies (4-0), who advanced to face No. 22 Wisconsin, a 64-49 winner over San Diego in Monday's final.
The victory by the Badgers prevented the Huskies from getting a rematch with the Gaels, who knocked Connecticut out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March as a 13th seed.
So instead of a chance for revenge, the Huskies will face another defensive-minded club. However, their defensive star appears back in form after Sunday's contest.
Not only did Thabeet notch his second double-double of the season, the 7-3 junior blocked a season-high seven shots. On the season, he has 19 in four games.
"The last couple of games I played under, maybe, the ability I'm capable of playing," Thabeet told the Hartford Courant. "I was a little disappointed in myself. I know I'm capable of a good effort every night."
Behind the native of Tanzania, the Huskies looked impressive early, building a 24-7 lead midway through the first half behind a 16-0 run. Thabeet capped the burst on a layup with 10:25 remaining.
Thabeet went 8-of-11 from the field and pulled down six boards on the offensive end.
"When he's live, in terms of bounciness and being alert, he's one of the top big men in the country," Miami coach Frank Haith told the Courant. "He was way more assertive, way more aggressive than he was the other night (against La Salle). He affected the game big-time."
Connecticut eventually led by 19 points in the first half, as Price's 3-pointer with 7:04 to play made it 33-14.
However, Miami (2-1) battled back, going on a 9-0 run before eventually entering the intermission trailing 39-31.
The Huskies tried to record another early knockout near the beginning of the second half, going on a 14-6 run to pull ahead, 56-41, with 13:21 left.
"A really good win for us, to beat what I consider a real quality team," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun told the newspaper. "We've got to continue to do what we do well - run. I know we're going to be able to run by an awful lot of teams. That's the best our fastbreak has looked this year."
Yet, Miami displayed its resiliency once again, using an 11-1 run to close within 70-63 on a layup by Jack McClinton with 2:43 remaining. But the Hurricanes would not score again thereafter.
McClinton finished with 27 points on 10-of-24 shooting.
Dwayne Collins added 16 points and 14 rebounds for Miami, which ended up going 36 percent (24-of-66) from the field.
- PARADISE JAM
AT US VIRGIN ISLANDS
NCAA BB PARADISE JAM
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
MIAMI FL (16) 31 32 63
CONNECTICUT (2) 39 37 76 FINAL
Nov 23 8:06 PM
- PARADISE JAM
AT US VIRGIN ISLANDS
NCAA BB (16) MIAMI FL 31
(2) CONNECTICUT 39 HALFTIME
Nov 23 6:58 PM
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