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Houston upends UConn

Jan 1, 2014 - 6:30 AM Houston, TX ( - Houston made its first American Athletic Conference game a memorable occasion, as TaShawn Thomas' two free throws with 9.2 seconds left snapped a tie and helped the Cougars earn a 75-71 decision over 17th-ranked Connecticut at Hofheinz Pavilion.

Thomas also blocked a layup attempt by Shabazz Napier in the closing stages, with Tione Womack pulling down the rebound for the Cougars and making both foul shots to seal the victory.

Thomas finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Jherrod Stiggers contributed 17 points off the bench for Houston (9-5, 1-0 AAC). Danrad Knowles added 13 points in the win.

"We beat an outstanding basketball team," Cougars head coach James Dickey said afterward. "They're ranked anywhere from 15 to 17, but they're top 10. I'm so proud of our team."

Napier compiled 27 points and nine rebounds in the loss, the second in four outings for Connecticut (11-2, 0-1) following a 9-0 start. Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels posted 19 and 12 points, respectively, for the Huskies.

"Coach Dickey had his team ready to play. We knew that," said Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie. "I was telling the guys we're going to get everybody's best punch, they have to understand that. They didn't understand that, and then we got down, and then we tried to tried to start playing."

Connecticut battled back from a 21-point first-half deficit to take its first lead of the night when Daniels buried a three that snapped a 64-64 deadlock with 3:41 left to play.

The Huskies maintained a three-point edge until Stiggers drained a game-tying triple with 1:14 remaining. After Napier misfired from long distance on the ensuing possession, Thomas drew contact while driving to the basket with 9.2 seconds showing and calmly sank both bonus shots to put the Cougars back in front.

Napier then penetrated the lane and had a path to the basket, but Thomas swatted away the shot and Womack grabbed the carom prior to being fouled. He also hit both from the line to seal Houston's upset.

The Cougars were on fire all throughout the opening half, shooting a sizzling 59.3 percent from the field and knocking down 5-of-8 tries from 3-point range en route to building a commanding 46-28 advantage at the break.

Houston began the contest on a 14-4 run and were up by a 26-12 margin just past the midway mark of the first half, then put together a 7-0 spurt later on to own a comfortable 45-24 lead two minutes prior to the intermission.

"We didn't play great for a full 40 minutes, but the first half was as well as we've played in a long time," said Dickey.

UConn bounced back strongly after intermission, however, outscoring the Cougars by a 21-3 margin to start the second half to knot the contest at 49-49 with just under 13 minutes left. Napier was the driving force behind the comeback, pouring in 14 of his points during the pivotal tear.

The game remained tight the rest of the way, with neither team ahead by more than four points over the duration.

Game Notes

Houston has won four of its last six matchups against Top-25 teams, though it has faced only one over the previous two seasons. The Cougars fell 81-74 at then-No. 21 Memphis last February ... UConn had won both of the two previous meetings between the schools, with the last encounter taking place in 2000 ... Houston finished 7-of-14 from 3-point range, with Stiggers hitting 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc ... The Cougars outscored the Huskies 15-6 in fastbreak points.