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Strong second half propels UConn to an 81-69 win over DePaul

DePaul forward Donnavan Kirk right gets rebound against Connecticut forward LeTolksdorf during first half an NCAA college basketball game Rosemont

DePaul forward Donnavan Kirk, right, gets a rebound against Connecticut forward Leon Tolksdorf during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Rosemont, Ill., on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: March 25, 2013 7:03AM



DePaul outplayed Connecticut for 20 minutes Saturday — but it was the last 20 minutes when the visitors went on an offensive explosion that decided the 81-69 outcome for the Huskies.

A divided Allstate Arena crowd that drew fans for both sides saw the Huskies (19-7, 9-5 Big East) shoot almost 71 percent from the field in the second half, easily overcoming a 37-34 halftime deficit to the Blue Demons (11-16, 2-12), who lost the ninth straight meeting with the Huskies.

‘‘We didn’t stick to the game plan,’’ said junior forward Cleveland Melvin, who led the Demons with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. ‘‘We let their two guards [Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright] drive, and we weren’t rebounding like we did in the first half.’’

Napier scored 28 points with seven rebounds, while Boatright and guard Omar Calhoun each scored 17.

Despite committing 17 turnovers, the Huskies took control with 14:31 remaining when Napier hit a three pointer that started a 13-0 run.

‘‘We weren’t coming together and sticking with the game plan,’’ Melvin said. ‘‘Their guards came up with big plays and we couldn’t stop them.’’

The Demons were the aggressors in the first half, staying close or tied until the 3:03 mark when sophomore Charles McKinney (nine points) hit a three to start a 15-5 run to close the half.

But McKinney was scoreless in the second half, while teammates Brandon Young (13 points, six assists) had only seven in the second half and Worrel Clahar (10 points, seven assists) had only four.

‘‘Clearly a tale of two halves,’’ said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell, whose team fell for the 11th time in the last 12 games. ‘‘We made it reasonably difficult on UConn in the first half. We had five stops and a score then four stops and a score. That needed to be our recipe to win the game.

‘‘But in the second half, we lost guys [defensively] and they got open shots. Then we rushed on offense and a couple bad rushed shots turned into baskets for them. That was our undoing.’’

The game was a homecoming for Boatright, the East Aurora product who was part of the draw for many in the divided crowd of 8,662.

‘‘He’s always played well against us,’’ Purnell said of the sophomore guard. ‘‘But there’s probably more adrenaline and energy and desire to play in front of the home folks.’’

‘‘We went back to our principles in the second half,’’ first-year Huskies coach Kevin Ollie said. ‘‘We wrote our principles on the board [at intermission] and said ‘let’s get back to who we are,’ and it showed.’’

The Huskies remain a power under Ollie, who replaced veteran Jim Calhoun after his retirement after last season.

Calhoun’s departure was marked by an NCAA ruling that Connecticut would be banned from post-season play this year for failing to meet minimum graduation requirements. The Huskies also will be barred from the Big East Tournament in two weeks.



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