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UConn shows youth in first loss of season at West Virginia

Dec 31, 2006 - 12:20 AM MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (Ticker) -- It is now clear why coach Jim Calhoun was so hesitant to take his team out of Connecticut earlier this season.

Freshman Doug Wiggins scored 20 points as ninth-ranked Connecticut displayed its youth in an 81-71 loss to West Virginia in the Big East Conference opener for both schools.

Expected to be in rebuilding mode after losing three underclassmen that were eventually taken in the first round of the NBA draft, the Huskies (11-1) remained at home to start the season against inferior competition, giving the team's numerous freshmen and sophomores a chance to discover their roles.

Although the lengthy homestand slowly improved its national ranking, Connecticut appeared unprepared for starting its conference schedule on the road, shooting just 39 percent (26-of-66) and converting just 13-of-27 (48 percent) free throws.

Coming to WVU Coliseum proved to be another obstacle for the young Huskies, as the Mountaineers (11-1) improved to 21-0 here all-time in December under coach John Beilein.

Beilein, however, picked up his first win in five games against UConn, which absorbed just its second loss in 12 Big East games against West Virginia.

Frank Young scored 22 points and freshman forward Da'Sean Butler added 16 for West Virginia, which jumped out to a 21-9 start over the first eight-plus minutes of the game and withstood a second-half run by UConn.

Trailing 38-31 at intermission for the first time season, the Huskies used some full-court pressure to twice cut the deficit to six points early in the second half, but the Mountaineers failed to fold.

Joe Mazzulla's layup with 14:27 to play gave West Virginia a 50-42 lead and ignited a 12-3 run over the next three-plus minutes. The freshman had four of his six points during the spurt.

The senior Young shot 4-of-9 on 3-pointers and junior point guard Darris Nichols added 14 points and six rebounds for the Mountaineers, who shot 49 percent (26-of-53) and sank 23-of-32 (72 percent) free throws.

Sophomore forward Marcus Johnson scored 16 points and Jerome Dyson added 12 for UConn, which committed 15 turnovers, leading to 16 points for West Virginia.

Limited to 22 minutes due to four fouls, 7-3 freshman center Hasheem Thabeet managed just four points and seven rebounds.

Thabeet also had just two blocks for the Huskies, who fell well short of their national-leading average of 10.8 rejections, managing just three.

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    CONNECTICUT (9) 31 40 71

    Dec 30 4:16 PM

    CONNECTICUT (9) 31

    Dec 30 2:56 PM
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    Connecticut vs. West VirginiaDec 30 2:56 PM