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Thabeet, red-hot UConn rally past Georgia Tech

Feb 10, 2008 - 1:42 AM STORRS, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Hasheem Thabeet took another step toward becoming a dominant big man while Connecticut rallied to remain one of the hottest teams in the country.

Thabeet finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks Saturday as 19th-ranked UConn rallied for its seventh straight win - an 80-68 non-conference victory over Georgia Tech.

After getting off to a slow start this season, the 7-3 Thabeet has emerged as a legitimate force in the paint for the Huskies (18-5), averaging 13.4 points and 4.3 blocks over his last seven games.

"The term I used the last two days in practice was, 'Don't throw the ball into the teeth of the lion,'" Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt said. "And that's what we did. We threw it right in there to him, and (our) guys shot an airball or shot it off the backboard over the rim and they went back the other way."

"When a guy pump-fakes four times and shoots the ball over the basket, I'm not sure what that is, but it's something," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "There's no stat for it. ... He was sensational."

A sophomore, Thabeet shot 9-of-11 from the floor and 6-of-9 from the free-throw line Saturday while posting career highs in points and rebounds.

Jeff Adrien also was outstanding in the paint for the Huskies, collecting 23 points and 11 rebounds. A.J. Price scored 14 points and reserve Doug Wiggins chipped in 10 for UConn, which owned a 44-21 edge on the glass and shot 76 percent (32-of-42) from the line.

Thabeet kept UConn in the game in the first half, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 boards before the break as the Huskies entered intermission facing a 35-31 deficit.

"They imposed their will, and I thought we were really lucky to be down four points at halftime - I mean, really fortunate," Calhoun said. "They were imposing their will physically and mentally on us.

"In the second half, we answered their aggressiveness with our aggressiveness, I guess is the best way to describe it. We really stood up a lot better than we did in the first half. ... I thought we found ourselves and answered them. We aren't going to play too many teams who are much more athletic than them."

After the teams battled back and forth in a seesaw second half, UConn reeled off a 14-2 run over a five-minute stretch to take a commanding 74-62 lead with 1:13 remaining.

"We just find a way," Adrien said. "We worked hard in the offseason to get in shape. Those last two minutes, we've been there before. We've done Cemetery Hill. We've done the stadium run. Those things are paying off."

Thabeet scored four points during the decisive spurt and highlighted the run with a thunderous dunk that gave the Huskies a 71-62 advantage with 2:21 left.

"If you really want to win, you're not going to get tired," Thabeet said.

Anthony Morrow scored 19 points to pace Georgia Tech (11-11) while Jeremis Smith chipped in 14 for the Yellow Jackets, who were whistled for 30 fouls and attempted just 10 shots (8-of-10) from the stripe.