WVU basketball: Lamb, Huskies overcome deficit to drop Mountaineers
HARTFORD, Conn. -- West Virginia did just about all of the things here Monday night that a visiting basketball team needs to do if it wants to beat Connecticut on one of its home floors.
The Mountaineers outrebounded the 17th-ranked Huskies by six - reversing the Connecticut rebounding margin that is second-best in the Big East - and outscored them 19-4 on second-chance points.
WVU even handled the inevitable Connecticut run and the sudden surge it produced inside the XL Center by building a 10-point lead in the second half after losing all of the eight-point lead from the first half.
And West Virginia lost, 64-57, before an entertained crowd of 15,085.
"Selfish plays down the stretch," WVU senior forward Kevin Jones said. "We were up 10 and that's the time you really want to run offense and get good shots. We didn't do that.
"We were sloppy with the ball and acting like we were down. We took fast shots and drove at the basket and they blocked our shots. We've still got to work on that. We're still a young team, but that's not an excuse."
WVU (12-5, 3-2 Big East) led 46-36 when Deniz Kilicli sank a left-handed hook shot with 11:24 to play, but missed 12 of the final 14 shots and missed all six of its 3-point attempts.
UConn (13-3, 3-2) responded with a 17-3 run and regained the lead for good 51-49 on a three-pointer by Jeremy Lamb with 5:11 remaining.
The Mountaineers missed four of five shots and had four turnovers that led to eight points to start the UConn run. WVU turned the ball over just three times in the first half.
The Mountaineers would tie the score 55-55 on two free throws by Truck Bryant and Kilicli and then a fast-break dunk by Jones, but didn't get another basket. Bryant missed two threes and Jones missed one and Kilicli went 2-for-4 at the free throw line.
The Mountaineers had one last chance down 60-57, but Jones missed his three and the ball went to UConn's Alex Oriakhi. Kilicli and Gary Browne slapped at the ball and thought it went out off Oriakhi's chest under the WVU basket with 16 seconds to go.
The possession instead went to the Huskies and Lamb made two free throws and then ended the game with a run-out layup at the buzzer.
"Oriakhi said in the game, 'That's out on me. It's clearly out on me,'" Kilicli said.
The Mountaineers led by as many as eight points in the first half, but shot 8-of-30 in the second half and missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts. They only turned the ball over four times after halftime, but all during that key sequence when they thought they went way out of character and the freshmen players abandoned running the offense.
"If those guys were quarterbacks, they'd be terrible quarterbacks," Coach Bob Huggins said. "They look at the first option and they don't look at the second or third option. I guess a lot of that is inexperience, but some of that is just having enough toughness to stay in what you're supposed to stay in."
The Huskies ended a two-game losing streak and improved to 10-0 at home this season and 7-0 at the XL Center. They're 9-0 all-time at either venue against the Mountaineers. Freshman Andre Drummond made 9-of-11 field goal attempts and finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Lamb added 25 points and eight rebounds.
UConn shot 55.3 percent (26-for-46) and had 28 points in the paint.
"It's been a little bit of a roller coaster ride recently," said Coach Jim Calhoun, who coached his first home conference game after missing the first three Big East games because of a suspension. "We hit a hump and I think we turned it around (Monday) and had an inspiring win - and that's the word I'd use for it."
Jones led the Mountaineers with 22 points on 9-for-18 shooting. He was 3-for-8 from 3-point range. Kilicli added 12 points, but played only 21 minutes because of foul trouble. Bryant, the reigning Big East Player of the Week, missed 6-of-7 3-point shots and had just eight points. Bryant also was bothered by foul trouble that limited him to 28 minutes.
"We've won some games where Truck shot the ball, but Truck goes 2-for-13 and I thought he forced a bunch of stuff," Huggins said. "He took contested shots. We need Truck to score, without question, but we don't need him taking contested shots."
It was a 33-28 WVU lead at the half and the Mountaineers had outrebounded UConn 18-14 with had an 8-0 edge on offensive rebounds and a 9-0 advantage in second-chance points. The Huskies had 11 baskets to nine turnovers that WVU turned into 15 points and didn't get a rebound for the first 7 minutes, 43 seconds.
The Huskies took a 34-33 lead as WVU missed its first eight shots of the second half, but the Mountaineers responded with eight straight points in a 13-2 run to build its biggest lead at 46-36.
"We were up 10 and everything changed," Bryant said. "If I get an open look, I'm going to take it - any open look I get. But we were up 10 and we started taking jump shots and we didn't make one at the end ... We had the game in our hands and we let it slip away again. That's another game we were supposed to win. That hurts."