Sunday, March 23, 2003

South: UConn turns to top guns

The Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. - Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun challenged his two best players at halftime to be more aggressive. Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor answered the call and sent the Huskies to the round of 16.

Gordon scored 18 of his 29 points in the second half, and Okafor dominated the offensive glass to lead No. 5 UConn to an 85-74 victory over No. 4 Stanford Saturday.

"We told Emeka, 'They're not taking the ball to you, so you need to do something else, like rebound and score,' " Calhoun said. "I told Ben that he needed to take over offensively. I challenged him to get the ball in his hands and take over."

Gordon, held to 14 points in a poor-shooting opening win over BYU, shot 8-for-14 and made all nine of his free throw attempts. Okafor had 18 points and 15 rebounds, including six offensive boards in the second half.

Calhoun yelled at Gordon for his passive defense in the first half, sending him to the bench with a light shove.

"Sometimes I get caught up trying to make my teammates better," Gordon said. "Sometimes I need to be more selfish and take the shot."

Julius Barnes scored 23 points, and Justin Davis bounced back from a scoreless opener to score 21 for Stanford (24-9).

The Huskies (23-9) advance to San Antonio, where they will play the Texas-Purdue winner.

Calhoun has urged Gordon to be more selfish offensively, and he followed the advice at just the right moment, penetrating to the basket and hitting four of five 3-pointers.

Trailing 54-51, UConn went on a 14-4 run highlighted by Tony Robertson's alley-oop dunk off a nice feed from Gordon. Okafor converted four offensive rebounds into baskets in the opening eight minutes of the second half.

The Cardinal relied on their outside shooting, and the strategy worked in the first half when they made seven 3-pointers. But they shot only 1-for-7 from long range in the second half.

"If we had continued to shoot the ball well, we could have stayed in there," Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said.

CONNECTICUT (23-9)-Armstrong 0-0 0-0 0, D.Brown 2-9 1-2 5, Okafor 9-14 0-0 18, Gordon 8-14 9-9 29, T.Brown 3-8 0-0 6, J.Brown 0-0 0-0 0, White 1-5 2-2 4, Hayes 1-3 0-2 2, Anderson 4-6 1-1 10, Robertson 3-9 4-5 11. Totals 31-68 17-21 85.

STANFORD (24-9)-Childress 2-10 0-0 5, Davis 8-12 3-4 19, Little 4-7 4-7 12, Barnes 7-14 4-5 23, Lottich 3-11 0-0 8, Kirchofer 0-1 1-1 1, Besecker 1-1 0-0 2, Grunfeld 0-2 0-0 0, Robinson 1-3 0-0 2, Haas 0-0 0-0 0, Haryasz 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-62 12-17 74.

Halftime-Stanford 44-. 3-Point Goals-Connecticut 6-10 (Gordon 4-5, Anderson 1-2, Robertson 1-3), Stanford 8-23 (Barnes 5-10, Lottich 2-8, Childress 1-4, Grunfeld 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Connecticut 43 (Okafor 15), Stanford 33 (Davis 10).

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