HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut did just fine without ailing coach Jim Calhoun.
Ryan Boatright scored 19 points, Jeremy Lamb had 17 and the Huskies beat Seton Hall 69-46 on Saturday in their first game since the school announced Calhoun was taking an indefinite leave of absence.
Lamb added eight rebounds and Boatright had five assists and four steals for the Huskies (15-7, 5-5 Big East), who stopped a four-game slide. Andre Drummond scored just seven points but had seven blocks, and Alex Oriakhi had 10 points and eight rebounds.
“We just wanted to win,” Boatright said. “Everybody got tired of going into the locker room with sad faces and going on campus and you can’t eat and can’t sleep ’cause you’re thinking about the losses.”
Jordan Theodore and Aaron Cosby each had 10 points for Seton Hall, which was without leading scorer and rebounder Herb Pope. The Pirates (15-8, 4-7) have lost six straight.
Calhoun is taking an indefinite medical leave because of spinal stenosis, a condition that causes him severe pain and hampers his mobility.
“I’m sorry he couldn’t be here,” Lamb said. “But I think he’s proud.”
Assistant George Blaney ran the team in Calhoun’s absence. Connecticut is 3-1 in games he has coached this season, all in the Big East. It is 2-4 in conference games coached by Calhoun.
“We were going through some hard times as a team,” Lamb said. “It was a bump in the road. We was losing and people’s shot was off and people were out of sync and coach Calhoun is out right now. We were going through a lot. But we had a team meeting and we came together.”
Connecticut led 30-17 at the half and opened the second half with a 9-2 run. A lob from Boatright to Drummond for a dunk became a three-point play, giving UConn a 48-29 lead.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard was ejected after he picked up two quick technical fouls with UConn up 55-38. Those came after a foul on Theodore and brief altercation between him and Shabazz Napier. Connecticut hit five of six free throws for a 60-38 lead, but by that time the game already had been decided.
“I don’t mind getting blown out,” Willard said after the game. “I do have an issue when the refs enjoy the blowout.”
Blaney started a three-guard lineup, the eighth different starting five the Huskies have used this season, going with Boatright, Napier and Lamb. That allowed the Huskies to press.
A steal and dunk by Boatright gave UConn a 10-4 lead. But Drummond picked up two early fouls and the Pirates came right back. They led 11-10 after a 3-pointer by Brandon Mobley.
Connecticut got it going again late in the half. Napier made a basket after 19 consecutive misses over three games, giving UConn an 18-13 lead. That was part of a 14-2 run.
Connecticut held the Pirates to six field goals and 24 percent shooting to lead by 13 at halftime. The Pirates shot 26 percent for the game and had 15 turnovers and 23 fouls.
“The word was ‘All in’ and the word was ‘Energy,'” Blaney said. “I can’t tell you how pleased I was with what happened.”
The Huskies, out of the Top 25 for the first time in 28 weeks, improved to 11-2 at home. Seton Hall, which started the season 15-2, is 3-5 on the road. The Pirates beat UConn 75-63 on Jan. 3, after losing 11 straight to the Huskies.
Pope bruised his ribs in Tuesday’s loss to Marquette and did not make the trip. The 6-foot-8 senior is averaging 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds.
It’s not clear how many games Calhoun will miss. He will not travel with the team for its game at Louisville on Monday.
Calhoun has had a history of health problems. He is a three-time cancer survivor, overcoming prostate cancer in 2003 and skin cancer twice, most recently in 2008.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine, normally associated with aging and sometimes arthritis. If physical therapy and medicines aren’t effective, surgery may be considered, although some people’s symptoms may not improve after an operation.
Calhoun has missed 22 games during his career at UConn, 18 for medical reasons. He has had to leave another 11 games with health problems. His last extended medical leave came in 2010, when he missed seven games with stress-related issues.
He missed three games this season because of NCAA sanctions.
Calhoun, who will get credit for any wins his team earns during his leave, is No. 6 on the career list with 868. He has won three national championships at Connecticut and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. He coached the team to its fourth Final Four and third national title last April.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.