ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Balance and depth were more than enough to carry No. 22 Connecticut to an easy win over skidding Central Florida.
Lasan Kromah and Shabazz Napier each had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies, who put five players in double figures during a 75-55 victory Sunday night.
DeAndre Daniels had 16 points and seven rebounds for UConn (18-5, 6-4 American Athletic Conference), and Ryan Boatright scored 11. The Huskies led by 17 at halftime and withstood a mild second-half rally by the Knights to win for the fourth time in five games.
“The second half we got a little sloppy and complacent, but we composed ourselves, so overall I was pleased,” coach Kevin Ollie said.
Phillip Nolan hit all five of his shots from the field to finish with 10 points. UConn led 41-24 at halftime after outscoring UCF 24-6 in the final 10 minutes of the half.
“We were playing basketball the way it should be played,” Napier said. “We were doing what we do best, which is running and playing good defense. We were having fun.”
Isaiah Sykes led UCF with 17 points, but he didn’t get much help. The Knights (9-11, 1-8) got a spark from reserve Justin McBride, who scored all 13 of his points in a 13-minute stretch during the second half, but it wasn’t enough to prevent UCF from losing its eighth straight game.
“I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but we can learn from this and get after it again tomorrow,” coach Donnie Jones said. “Connecticut is a Top 25 team and they showed why out there today. They’ve been at this level for a long time and we’re still trying to get there. We’re going to get there, it’s just going to take some time.”
UCF stayed with Connecticut for the first 10 minutes, mostly because of Sykes. The 6-foot-6 senior had 10 points, including a three-point play that tied the score at 15. Matt Williams hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to give UCF an 18-17 lead, but it was all Connecticut from there.
Daniels, Napier, Kromah and Boatright each scored during a 9-0 that made it 26-18 and demonstrated the Huskies’ balance on offense.
Connecticut’s defense, meanwhile, shut out Sykes the rest of the half and limited UCF to 34.6 percent shooting (9 of 26) while extending the lead to 41-24.
“We rebounded and got out on the fast break and Lasan was terrific,” Ollie said. “I think he got four steals and made some amazing layups. Everybody was running, playing together and playing unselfish.”
The teams traded baskets after halftime until McBride lumbered onto the court. The 6-foot-10, 310-pound center was too much for Connecticut’s inside players to handle, but his lack of conditioning showed. He has played only four games since returning two weeks ago from a knee injury that had kept him out all season.
McBride scored 11 points in a 7-minute stretch to rally his team, and when Kasey Wilson hit a 3-pointer, UCF was down only 57-49 with 7:20 left.
“I tried to do what I could do to help us win, but I got gassed. I got real gassed,” McBride said.
So did the Knights.
UConn quickly responded to the challenge, getting a follow shot from Nolan and back-to-back steals from Napier, who converted them into a layup and two free throws to boost Connecticut’s lead back up to 63-49.
McBride scored his last basket on a dunk to cut the deficit to 12, but that was as close as UCF got the rest of the game. UConn outscored the Knights 12-4 the rest of the way.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)