for this game

Thabeet dominates as UConn grinds out win

Feb 15, 2009 - 12:51 AM NEWARK, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Top-ranked Connecticut will need plenty of performances like this from Hasheem Thabeet now that Jerome Dyson is likely done for the season.

Thabeet fell one block short of his second career triple double, helping UConn hold off feisty Seton Hall, 62-54, on Saturday.

The 7-3 Tanzanian registered career highs of 25 points and 20 rebounds to go along with nine blocks for UConn (24-1, 12-1 Big East), which has won 13 straight and matched the best start in school history.

The 1995-96 Huskies, led by NBA star Ray Allen, also started 24-1.

"The difference in the game was that there were nine players and then there was Hasheem," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "And that doesn't always happen. You don't always see a performance like that."

Jeff Adrien added 15 points and 14 rebounds for Connecticut, which will need more of the same from Thabeet now that Dyson - its second-leading scorer - is likely out for the season.

Dyson tore the meniscus in his right knee Wednesday and will have surgery on Monday. He was averaging 13.2 points per game and has been UConn's top perimeter defender this season.

"Jerome is one of our best perimeter defenders so now I know my teammates need me more to help them with blocks if they get beat," Thabeet said. "Great team defense is still the key for us and I am going to be more aggressive."

Dyson's absence wasn't that noticeable this time, thanks to Thabeet. The big man had no problem dominating Seton Hall (14-10, 5-7), which put up a fight but never seriously challenged the Huskies in the second half.

With Dyson out, the Huskies will likely lean on their inside game even more, and if Saturday is any indication, Thabeet is ready to accept the challenge.

The junior scored 12 of UConn's last 16 points in the first half, helping the Huskies to a 33-23 edge after 20 minutes. His 16-point first half was highlighted by a thunderous alley-oop.

Thabeet palmed a high pass from guard A.J. Price with his arm outstretched and emphatically threw it down. Thabeet finished 10-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-8 from the free-throw line.

"They have the X-factor, they have 'The Terminator' standing in the lane," Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. "He's like the liquid man from 'Terminator,' you can't kill him. I've never seen anybody like him. He's just unbelievable. He changes the game, he dominates the game, he alters the game."

John Garcia scored a career-high 22 points and added 13 rebounds for the Pirates, who shot just 30 percent (24-of-78).

"We knew coming in we were playing with house money," Garcia said. "This won't affect our confidence, in fact it shows we can play with the No. 1 team in the country."

"I just wish we could have shot the ball a little bit better," Gonzalez said. "I'm not saying we definitely would have won, but it would have been nice to see if we could have stole it."

UConn has won 16 of the last 17 and 23 of the last 25 meetings with Seton Hall.

The real measuring stick as to where UConn stands without Dyson will come on Monday when it hosts No. 4 Pittsburgh (22-2, 9-2).