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Connecticut shakes off Fairfield

Dec 23, 2011 - 3:51 AM Hartford, CT (Sports Network) - Shabazz Napier dropped 24 points to go with six rebounds and five assists, as No. 8 Connecticut held off a pesky Fairfield squad, 79-71, at XL Center Thursday night.

Jeremy Lamb finished with 18 points and Andre Drummond donated 16 points and nine rebounds for the Huskies (10-1), winners of five consecutive contests. Freshman Ryan Boatright contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.

"We had a great first half tonight. I thought Andre was going to get 20 rebounds tonight," UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said. "In the second half, we just didn't show up, our body language changed and we just didn't play well."

Rakim Sanders paced Fairfield (7-5) with 20 points and seven rebounds. Sean Crawford netted 14 points, while Derek Needham and Desmond Wade scored 12 and 10 points, respectively for the Stags, who had their four-game winning streak snapped.

Trailing by 13, 59-46, with 11 1/2 minutes to play, Fairfield began its comeback effort, using a 7-2 spurt, capped by a pair of free throws by Jamel Fields, to make it an eight-point game with just under eight minutes to play.

UConn stopped the run with a jumper by Drummond to go back up by 10, but Fairfield kept coming and a layup by Sanders with 2:23 left made it a three-point game, 72-69.

"In the second half, we weren't playing well early in the half, with 12, 13, 14 minutes to go, up 20, we looked at the scoreboard and decided it was time to go home for Christmas," Calhoun continued. "Give Fairfield and Coach [Sydney] Johnson a great deal of credit. They stepped in, made a whole bunch of threes, and played a different game than they've played all year. They played a rat game all up and down the court. And we stopped playing."

A trey by Boatright extended the Huskies lead to six, and a slam by Lamb on UConn's next possession pushed the lead back to eight with 48 seconds to play.

Fairfield kept it close early, trailing by only one, 14-13, just over five minutes into the game. But UConn began to pull away, using a 16-4 run over the next seven-plus minutes to take a 30-17 lead with 7;35 to go in the opening half. A three-pointer by Crawford snapped the run and pulled Fairfield within 10, 30-20.

The Huskies kept the pressure on and went on a 12-4 run over the next five- plus minutes to push their lead to 42-24 with just over two minutes to go in the opening 20 minutes. A slam by Sanders stopped the run with 1:20 to go and made it 42-26.

The Huskies took a comfortable 20-point lead, 46-26, into the locker room at halftime.

"Obviously we wanted to win the game," Johnson said. "We dug ourselves a sizeable hole against a top 10 team - it's a lot to ask. We asked that of them and the guys battled back but we lost. At the end of the day, we lost."

Game Notes

UConn is 118-4 under Calhoun against non-conference New England opponents...UConn has also won 65 consecutive games against in-state opposition...The Huskies have won 41 consecutive non-conference home games...UConn shot 53 percent from the floor and 63 percent from three-point range, while Fairfield shot 40 percent from the floor and 44 percent from beyond the arc...The Huskies scored 32 points in the paint to only 20 for Fairfield.