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March 21, 2009

Connecticut's hot shooting dooms A&M

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Jim Calhoun returned to his regular seat on the bench and led Connecticut to a familiar spot in the round of 16.

A.J. Price scored 27 points, Jeff Adrien had 23 and Connecticut dominated Texas A&M from the opening tip in a 92-66 victory on Saturday, putting the Huskies in the round of 16 for the 12th time under their Hall of Fame coach.

After getting treatment for dehydration and missing Connecticut's first-round game, Calhoun came back and never had to worry. The Huskies scored the first 10 points and kept pulling away.

Stanley Robinson had 12 points for the top-seeded Huskies (29-4), who will play the Washington-Purdue winner in the West Region semifinals in Glendale, Ariz.

Bryan Davis and Donald Sloan led overmatched Texas A&M with 12 points apiece. The ninth-seeded Aggies (24-10) were knocked out by the top seed in the second round for the second straight tournament.

Calhoun appeared a bit more subdued as he sat on the bench. He barked at the refs a couple of times, but otherwise stuffed his hands in his pockets and strolled the bench area like he was talking a walk in the park.

The Huskies rediscovered their swagger and attitude that vaulted them to the top of the Big East standings and The Associated Press poll earlier this season, making this win an easy one.

UConn broke away at the start with a collection of mid-range jumpers and 3-pointers. They didn't need much from Hasheem Thabeet to crush the Aggies - the 7-foot-3 center, a co-player of the year in the Big East Conference, never even touched the ball on offense until midway through the first half. He took just two shots in the game and finished with six points.

Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said he was going to use Philadelphia's most inspirational fictional character to rally the Aggies.

He may have used Rocky, but Connecticut had Adrien.

Adrien scored the first bucket of the game, then blocked A&M's first attempt. He grabbed a missed jumper and swung his two elbows, startling a couple of Aggies. Three possessions later, Price worked the ball in the lane to Adrien for a thunderous and uncontested dunk.

The Aggies called their first timeout only a minute into the game, and Turgeon played Calhoun's role as the cranky coach. He badgered the officials and was finally whistled for a technical on a foul call with 9:58 left in the first half. Price made two for the T and Thabeet swished his two and it was 22-8.

Price didn't even attempt UConn's first 3 until almost 9 minutes were left in the half. He made it, of course.

The Aggies made their first 10 shots in their first-round win against BYU, but missed their first five in this one. When Derrick Roland finally hit a jumper, it was already 10-2.

Texas A&M's 10th basket came with 2:03 left in the half and UConn's rout was already full steam ahead.

The Huskies 24-1 start matched the 1995-96 team for best start in school history and they appeared primed for a possible No. 1 overall seed. But they lost one of their most effective outside shooters when Jerome Dyson went down with a knee injury, and the Huskies closed the season only 3-3 in their final six games -- including the classic six-overtime loss to Syracuse.

The finish didn't rob them of a No. 1 seed, but it did seem to make them more vulnerable than invincible.

Scratch that.

Price helped the Huskies pull away in a sizzling stretch to close the first 20 minutes. He hit a pull-up 3 pointer, scored a layup off a turnover, then nailed another 3 that made it 46-22.

OK, he wasn't perfect. He traveled on the next possession.

The second half was academic, simply a time for UConn to pad its stats and put the finishing touches on their second straight NCAA blowout.

Adrien and Price shot a combined 19-for-32 from the floor. Adrien didn't come out until 2 minutes were left and Price followed at the 1:30 mark and the Huskies up 26.

This was the second blowout in an uneventful doubleheader in Philadelphia. Villanova beat UCLA 89-69 in the opener.


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