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Connecticut celebrates move to No. 1 with rout of Louisville

Feb 3, 2009 - 5:48 AM LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- The weekly carousel of who is the No. 1 team in the country has probably ended with Connecticut.

Jeff Adrien scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds as Connecticut looked impressive in its first game as the nation's top team on Monday, pounding No. 7 Louisville, 68-51.

Hasheem Thabeet had 14 points and 11 boards and Jerome Dyson scored 14 as the Huskies (21-1, 10-1 Big East) posted their 10th straight win.

"They are truly the No. 1 ranked team in the country and are very deserving of their ranking," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team had a nine-game winning streak snapped. "We were not in their league tonight."

"I could not be prouder of our kids in the sense that the couple of things we always like to do; we defended well but we exposed a team like Louisville that is on an eight- or nine-game winning streak," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.

With its strong showing, Connecticut all but guaranteed that it will retain the top spot for the following week. It will host Michigan in a non-conference matchup on Saturday.

Prior to the Huskies, Wake Forest and Duke both lasted just one week atop the poll. Including Pittsburgh's two-week reign prior to that, there has been a different No. 1 team each week for the last month.

Connecticut took control of the contest with a 17-4 run that closed out the opening half, giving it a 38-26 lead at intermission. Adrien had seven points during the burst, including the final four.

The senior forward dunked with 1:18 left for a 36-26 advantage. After a missed 3-pointer by the Cardinals' Earl Clark, Adrien hit a jumper with 36 seconds left to complete the scoring.

Clark had a chance to give Louisville a positive note before the half but missed another attempt from the arc. The junior forward ended up 2-of-16 from the field to finish with five points.

After the Huskies' A.J. Price scored the opening three points after the intermission, the Cardinals closed within 41-31 on a jumper by Terrence Williams with 17:25 to play. That would be the closest that Louisville would get thereafter.

Thabeet answered back with a layup for UConn, pulled down an offensive rebound that led to a layup for Dyson and hit a jumper to make it 47-31 with 15:10 remaining.

Thabeet also had four of the Huskies' five blocks in the contest, using his defensive prowess inside to hold the Cardinals to 34 percent (22-of-64) shooting.

"We are a cutting and slashing team, but we are playing like we are guys from South Dakota who are unbelievable pure shooters," Pitino said. "Thabeet had a lot to do with our offensive philosophy in terms of us being intimated by him. I am sure he does it to a lot of people and he sure did it to us tonight."

"Hasheem owned the paint, and he showed his jump shot tonight which is really nice to see, he's a really good shooter," Calhoun said. "People don't realize what (a) good shooter he is."

Adrien finished 7-of-12 from the field en route to scoring in double figures for the 12th straight time and 20th time in 22 games. He has also grabbed at least seven rebounds in nine of the last 10 games.

"Jeff (Adrien) continues to be our rock," Calhoun said. "(He) gets points, brings toughness."

Williams finished with 26 points, five boards and three blocks for the Cardinals (17-4, 8-1), who dropped to 3-5 against the top-ranked team. They did beat No. 1 Pittsburgh here on January 17.

Williams did not get much help from his teammates, who combined for 25 points on 11-of-45 shooting (24 percent), including 2-of-14 on 3-pointers.

Besides his team's stellar defense, Calhoun felt that a key point in the game occurred when forward Stanley Robinson picked up his second foul 2:01 in, forcing him to insert another guard into the lineup.

Together, Dyson, Price, freshman Kemba Walker and Craig Austrie combined for 36 points and 17 rebounds, including a number of long ones that led to numerous chances in transition.

"But something happened during the game when Stanley (Robinson) got two fouls early in the game," Calhoun said. "And I became a genius, we only play three guards anyway because that's who coming off the bench. But we got the three guys in early."

Preston Knowles was the next highest scorer with nine points for Louisville, which had been off to its best start as a member of the Big East Conference prior to Monday. It will return to action at St. John's on Sunday.

"The good thing about our team is we did not get too encouraged with our 8-0 start," Pitino said. "We are at the halfway point right now and we are not going to get discouraged about a team that was much better than us, beating us. We are not going to win every game and we are not going to get discouraged. It is a long season we have a chance to be a very good basketball team."