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UConn ends Big East tourney skid with rout of DePaul

Mar 8, 2011 - 11:11 PM New York, NY (Sports Network) - Kemba Walker finished with 26 points, leading No. 21 Connecticut to a 97-71 victory against DePaul in the opening contest of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Alex Oriakhi added 13 points and 19 rebounds for the Huskies (22-9), while Jeremy Lamb had 19 points to help UConn snap a six-game losing streak in the conference tourney.

Connecticut, seeded ninth after a 9-9 conference mark, had not won in this tournament since March 10, 2005 against Georgetown, and will next face the eighth-seeded Hoyas in the second round on Wednesday.

"It's been a while since we had a win here," said Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun. "Seems like we were always winning the first and second game, at least, and the last few years that hasn't been true."

The Huskies' lead was seven with about nine minutes to play, but they pulled away with a 17-3 run. They shot 60 percent and made 29-of-32 free throws in the blowout win.

Brandon Young scored 20 points to lead DePaul (7-24), which was coming off a 107-59 loss to Syracuse on the road in the regular-season finale. The setback ends head coach Oliver Purnell's first season at the school.

"Now, experience starts to be our friend as opposed to inexperience being our enemy, so I thought we did a good job of laying the foundation, work ethic, developing a culture that will help us win in the future," Purnell said.

UConn held a 45-28 lead at the break, but the Blue Demons used a press defense to force turnovers and trim their deficit in the second half. Young scored five consecutive points early in the period before Tony Freeland sank two free throws, which had DePaul within 47-37.

Connecticut continued to play in front and with a double-digit lead, but with 11 1/2 minutes to play, Jeremiah Kelly drilled a three for the Blue Demons. Another turnover on the Huskies' next possession led to Moses Morgan's tip-in, which brought DePaul within 63-56.

Then, with 8:52 remaining, Jimmy Drew's three-point play made it a 68-61 contest.

But the Huskies began their run with a pair of Roscoe Smith free throws, and they continued to rack up points, mostly on short baskets and layups. Of UConn's 55 attempted field goals, only eight were three-pointers -- and only two of those were successful.

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel had one of the long-distance makes to end the Huskies' run, making it an 85-64 game with 3:48 to go.

UConn cruised to the win from there, as DePaul made just three shots in the final eight minutes.

Game Notes

UConn beat Georgetown at home on February 16...The teams had never met in the Big East tourney before. UConn holds a 6-1 lead in the all-time series, including an 82-62 win at DePaul on January 15...The Huskies held a 46-22 rebounding advantage...Walker added seven rebounds and five assists...Kelly finished with 15 points for DePaul, which shot 34 percent, while Morgan netted 14 points.