DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Rodney Purvis, Daniel Hamilton and a stifling defense carried Connecticut back from an 11-point first-half deficit, giving the Huskies enough for a 74-67 first-round victory over Colorado on Thursday and keeping Kevin Ollie unbeaten as a head coach in the NCAA Tournament.
Purvis scored 15 of his 19 points after halftime, Daniel Hamilton had 17 points and 10 rebounds and the No. 9 seed Huskies (25-10) advanced to the second round of the South Region.
Josh Scott had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the No. 8 Buffaloes (22-12), finishing 0-3 in the NCAA Tournament in his career. He had five of Colorado’s 11 misses in 30 free-throw attempts, helping UConn get back in the game.
The Huskies, who won the NCAA title two years ago as a No. 7 seed before missing the tournament altogether last season, shrugged off a sluggish start in a grinding, 48-foul game — 26 for UConn and 22 for Colorado.
Waiting on Saturday for the Huskies will be the Austin Peay-Kansas winner. The No. 1 overall seed Jayhawks have never played UConn in the NCAA Tournament.
Scott was quiet in the first part of the second half as Amida Brimah and UConn’s lanky frontcourt protected the rim. He snapped to life in the closing minutes with a soft hook in the lane and four straight foul shots to bring the Buffaloes within 66-63 with a minute to go.
The Huskies are the nation’s best free-throw shooting team. Sterling Gibbs proved it by sinking six in a row to keep UConn’s lead safe.
Shuffling back and forth on the sideline with his arms up and his knees bent like he was guarding the perimeter in his playing days, Ollie was a lot less stressed in the second half as his confident, experienced team got back to its basics. The Huskies even out-rebounded the Buffaloes 36-33. Colorado entered the game fourth in the country in rebounding.
Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle fell to 1-4 in the NCAA Tournament since winning their first game in 2012.
The Buffaloes (22-12) made the Huskies offense a mess in the first half, though some of the overshot 3-pointers and missed layups were self-induced mistakes. Scott, playing in his third NCAA Tournament in four years with his fellow seniors, had his way underneath and muscled his way to the line often.
Scott’s jump shot in the paint with 3:01 left before halftime gave the Buffaloes their biggest lead at 33-22, but the bricks they were flinging from the foul line kept them from stretching that further and left plenty of room for the Huskies to rally.
They cranked up their half-court trap and started displaying the kind of defense they used on their way to the title two years ago.
After Purvis turned a steal into an uncontested fast-break dunk early in the second half, Josh Fortune fumbled the ball in the backcourt to allow Adams to take it and feed Hamilton for a layup and a 3-point play to bring the Huskies within two points.
Finally, they took their first lead at 47-46 with a 3-pointer from the wing by Jalen Adams, the freshman point guard who banked in the beyond-half-court shot to force a fourth overtime last week in UConn’s win over Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals. Hamilton stole the ball from Tre’Shaun Fletcher on the next possession, and spindly, multi-skilled sophomore sped the other way for a one-handed dunk.
Soon followed the exclamation point from Purvis, who swished a 3-pointer right in front of UConn’s bench to make it 52-48 before turning to playfully pat Ollie on the chest with the back of his hand in the transition to the defensive end.
AP college basketball website: http://collegebasketball.ap.org
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