for this game

Thabeet, Connecticut overcome pesky Michigan

Feb 8, 2009 - 5:07 AM STORRS, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun compared playing Michigan to like a trip to the dentist. Due to Hasheem Thabeet, the Huskies left with a lollipop.

Thabeet scored 17 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as top-ranked Connecticut survived an upset bid from Michigan, 69-61, on Saturday.

Jerome Dyson scored 19 points and Jeff Adrien added nine and 14 boards for the Huskies (22-1), who captured their 11th straight victory.

"We're playing really good right now," Thabeet said. "I'm just happy we keep winning games. We fight from the beginning to the end. We have a great group of guys."

Although it entered the game 1-19 all-time against the nation's top team, Michigan (15-9) gave Connecticut everything it could handle, controlling the first 26 minutes before the Huskies finally created a gap.

Knowing Wolverines coach John Beilein quite well from his days at West Virginia, Calhoun knew the game was going to be a grind.

"Coming home from Louisville, I said (to myself) 'What did you do? You know it going to be tortuous. You know he's going to put you through (a) root canal.' And, sure in heck they did. And we didn't react, early, well to it.

"They changed defenses, 1-3-1, 2-3, and then man-to-man. And then, of course, they run their offense machine-like, and grind you down until you give up."

Although UConn scored eight of the first nine points of the game, Michigan was able to battle back as it slowed the tempo down, knotting the score at 14-14 on DeShawn Sims' layup with 11:58 remaining.

The Wolverines surged to a 29-21 lead with 4:06 left behind a surprising 9-0 run. Anthony Wright capped the burst with a 3-pointer - his only points of the game.

Calhoun blamed Michigan's deliberate style on offense for it ability to build the lead.

"The biggest thing they got us on, somewhere around 20 to 30 seconds in, we would get out of our athletic stance, because we were tired of just playing defense, and they would go by us, or make good plays," he said.

However, the Huskies were able to chip that deficit down to one at the half, as Thabeet's dunk with 22 seconds left made it a 34-33 contest. The native of Tanzania had 11 points over the opening 20 minutes.

Yet, Michigan still held the lead, marking just the second time that UConn had faced a deficit at intermission this season.

The Wolverines was able to rebuild the lead to four points in the early minutes of the second half behind five early points by freshman Zach Novak and a layup by Sims off a bullet pass from Manny Harris that made it 43-39 with 14:04 left.

The Huskies, however, responded with their own 9-0 run as they began to get out in the open court. That burst was the start of an 18-4 run for UConn, which pulled ahead, 57-47, on Adrien's jumper with 7:30.

"I think we as a team, over those last 10, 12 minutes of the game, played about as (gutsy) as you're going to need to play to win any basketball game," Calhoun said.

The Huskies were able to get out and run in part due to Thabeet, who began to assert himself on the defensive end. The 7-3 center finished with six blocks.

"He changes the game completely for us," UConn senior guard A.J. Price said. "I don't know where we'd be without him."

Along with the 6-7 Adrien, Thabeet combined for 11 offensive rebounds and 26 total - two more than Michigan's total.

"Thabeet is a big story in this game obviously, but Adrien is just ... I mean you (can't) block him out," Beilein said. "He's just on mission to get the ball. He just rebounds the ball. I still remember him (when I was coaching) at West Virginia when he was a freshman. We couldn't stop him them."

Michigan attempted to rally, closing within 61-56 with 1:32 on the first of two 3-pointers by Stu Douglass. But Craig Austrie responded with a shot from the arc, and the Huskies sank 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch.

Price added 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds for UConn, which shot 50 percent (11-of-22) from the field in the second half.

"Their guards do a great job knowing who should have the ball where, and complimenting outside play with the obvious presence of the big fella," Beilein said.

The freshman Douglass ended up with a season-high 20 points for Michigan, which dropped to 2-3 against ranked teams this season.

The Wolverines' leading scorer, Harris ended up with 15 points, but shot 5-of-16 from the field.