for this game

UConn pulls away from Pepperdine

Dec 21, 2006 - 5:16 AM HARTFORD, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Pepperdine's sizzling shooting made Connecticut sweat longer than expected.

A.J. Price scored 17 points and freshman Hasheem Thabeet added a season-high 15 as No. 11 Connecticut pulled away in the second half for an 88-66 victory over Pepperdine.

The Huskies (10-0) extended their home winning streak to 29 games but had to withstand a torrid display of outside shooting from the Waves, and Tomas Pranciliauskas in particular, in the first half.

Pepperdine buried eight shots from the arc - four by Pranciliauskas - in the opening 20 minutes and trailed, 40-36, at halftime despite the fact that UConn's top two interior scorers, Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, had combined for 22 points on 12-of-12 shooting.

"No one has driven us that hard into the paint, that many times, lifted us, kicked out, and got that many good shots," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "That's all just repetition, hard work and him putting together a team with eight scholarship players and one walk-on. So I would give them a great deal of congratulations.

"I think we saw we had a 12- or 14-point lead and we assumed it was going to go just like everything else, and at halftime we're sitting on a four-point lead, and they're feeling really good, which we contributed to."

The Huskies finally broke the game open with an 11-0 spurt in the second half, extending their lead to 71-53 with 6:48 to play.

"The one thing I knew we couldn't stop was their transition game. They're athletic," Waves coach Vance Walberg said. "We're not the most athletic group of players. We got big hearts, but we're not very athletic. And they did just go right by us whenever they wanted to. They've got a heck of a team, there's no doubt about it."

The 7-3 Thabeet, who shot 7-of-7 from the floor, had a key three-point play and Price netted the final four points in the decisive run.

"It's a part of improvement," Thabeet said. "I'm going to keep working on my offense until I get there, so this is quite an accomplishment for me."

UConn scored the first eight points of the game and led by as many as 12 points in first half, but Pepperdine kept firing away from the arc, making 8-of-15 to get within four points at halftime.

Pranciliauskas scored a career-high 22 points, including six 3-pointers, many of them from a different area code. A 6-4 sophomore from Lithuania, he had recorded his previous career high of 17 in Saturday's win over Northern Arizona, making all six shots from the field.

"This may have been one of the most frustrating teams I've played in college," Adrien said. "In the first half they were really in the game. No matter how high we increased the lead, they were still in the game. We expected that.

"When I was guarding number four (Pranciliauskas), I felt like I was guarding him. I'd put my hand up and he was making the shot. There's nothing I really could do. He's a great shooter."

Freshman guard Doug Wiggins scored 16 points and Adrien added 14 for the Huskies, who shot 51 percent (33-of-65).

"From the beginning of the season and not playing so much, I thought it was going to be a tough year," Wiggins said. "So for me to start playing more earlier in the season, and me to be doing what I'm doing, I'm happy right now."

Although UConn made 19-of-28 overall attempts at the line, the Huskies converted 16-of-18 at one point in the second half to slowly pull away.

    --- --- -----
    PEPPERDINE 36 30 66
    CONNECTICUT (11) 40 48 88 FINAL

    Dec 20 9:02 PM


    Dec 20 7:46 PM