HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s players impressed coach Jim Calhoun during exam week with their study habits on the practice court.
The ninth-ranked Huskies, who had not played in 10 days, routed Holy Cross 77-40 on Sunday behind a season-high 24 points from Andre Drummond.
The 6-foot-10 freshman added eight rebounds as UConn extended its home winning streak to 40 games against non-conference opponents.
“We’re a much better basketball team,” Calhoun said. “Practice in this particular case, because it’s a young team, has paid off. And I think we’re better at what we do.”
Alex Oriakhi added 15 points and Shabazz Napier had 13 assists for UConn (9-1), which is 117-4 under Calhoun in home games against non-conference opponents from New England, including 114 wins in the last 115 such games.
R.J. Evans, who played high school basketball in Norwich, had 15 points for the Crusaders (4-7), despite getting physically ill during the game.
“I hope it was because he was sick to his stomach because of how the result was,” Holy Cross coach Milan Brown said. “I wanted to throw up too.”
Evans kept Holy Cross in the game early with eight points. The Huskies hit just five of their first 15 shots, and the game was tied at 13 before Jeremy Lamb’s steal and dunk put the Huskies ahead for good. Lamb, who was guarded by Evans, finished with just 10 points, 10 below his average.
UConn pulled away with an 18-0 run highlighted by Ryan Boatright’s crossover move along the baseline and reverse layup. The Huskies led 43-24 at halftime.
Drummond and Oriakhi scored all the points in a 10-4 run that opened the second half and put the game out of reach.
UConn’s big men (Drummond, Oriakhi and Tyler Olander) outscored Holy Cross 45-40 by themselves.
An alley-oop pass from Napier to Drummond gave the Huskies a 59-31 lead. Another after a missed free throw made it 70-36.
Drummond also showed off an array of post moves, including a turnaround jump shot for the first time this season.
“Someone asked me how much he’s improved thus far,” Calhoun said. “About 100 percent, and I think he’s got about another thousand to go. He’s got talent.”
Connecticut committed just one foul in the first half and finished with eight, something Calhoun attributed to the pace of the game which saw the Huskies outscore the Crusaders 26-4 on the fast break.
UConn was playing for the first time since beating Harvard at home on Dec. 8. Holy Cross hadn’t played since a Dec. 9 win over Sacred Heart.
“We were all stressed out about the finals and we were studying all the time and we had practices,” Drummond said. “We didn’t let that stop us. We went out there and worked hard every single day in practice and we executed in the game.”
Calhoun is just 4-4 against Holy Cross in his career, which also includes his 14 seasons at Northeastern. The Huskies and the Crusaders were playing for the first time since 1988.
Holy Cross still leads the all-time series between the schools 20-13, but has lost five straight to the Huskies in a rivalry that dates to 1908.
Connecticut assistant coach George Blaney, who played at Holy Cross and coached the Crusaders for 22 seasons, was facing his alma mater for the first time since joining UConn 11 seasons ago.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.