LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Connecticut reached No. 1 two months
ahead of schedule.
The way the Huskies are playing, they might stay there awhile.
Jeff Adrien scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds and the
Huskies celebrated their return to the top of the polls for the
first time in three years with a 68-51 dismantling of No. 5
Louisville on Monday.
"We definitely made a statement that we're No. 1," Adrien
The Huskies certainly played like the best team in the nation.
Hasheem Thabeet dominated the lane, scoring 14 points, 11
rebounds and four blocks as UConn (21-1, 10-1 Big East) rolled to
its 10th straight victory.
Jerome Dyson added 14 points and A.J. Price had 11 points, eight
rebounds and three assists as the Huskies had surprisingly little
trouble shutting down the red-hot Cardinals.
"They're very truly the No. 1 team in the country," said
Louisville coach Rick Pitino. "We weren't in their league
Not many teams are when the Huskies play as well at both ends of
the floor as they did against the Cardinals.
Terrence Williams led Louisville (17-4, 8-1) with a career-high
26 points but got little help from his teammates. Williams shot
11-of-19 from the field, while the rest of the Cardinals went
11-of-45 (24 percent) from the floor.
UConn emphatically ended Louisville's nine-game winning streak
by dictating the pace and using Thabeet's massive 7-foot-3 wingspan
to hold Louisville to a season-low point total. The junior's
defensive dominance was so complete UConn coach Jim Calhoun looked
surprised when he found out his center was credited with just four
"Thabeet had four blocks? Come on," Calhoun said. "It doesn't
matter if he has four or 40. Just his presence in there was
The Cardinals shot 34 percent from the floor - including 5-of-17
3-pointers - and rarely challenged one of the nation's leading
shotblockers. Louisville shot two free throws and the Cardinals
were so reticent to get in the lane that they sometimes pulled up
for jumpers on the fastbreak rather than try and get to the basket.
"It's February and it's time to get better," Thabeet said.
"Coach told me to control the middle and not let them get into the
offense and not give up uncontested shots. After I got a couple of
blocks they stopped bringing it in there."
UConn became the fourth No. 1 team in as many weeks earlier in
the day, but managed to avoid the pitfalls that sent Pittsburgh,
Wake Forest and Duke tumbling out of the top spot.
Louisville ended Pittsburgh's perfect run with a 69-63 upset on
Jan. 17. The Cardinals were hoping to become the first team since
Georgia Tech in 1993 to knock off two No. 1s in the same season,
but simply couldn't keep up with the Huskies.
The Cardinals had resurrected their season during a perfect
January, reeling off nine straight wins - including four against
Yet with 30 pro scouts on hand to watch the two preseason
favorites in possibly the nation's toughest conference, the
Cardinals were no match for UConn's size, speed or experience.
Louisville power forward Earl Clark struggled against whoever
the Huskies threw at him, finishing with five points on 2-of-16
shooting. Heralded freshman center Samardo Samuels, clearly
bothered by Thabeet, was held scoreless, missing both of his shots
from the field.
"I think they outplayed us in every phase of the game,"
Louisville guard Edgar Sosa said. "They just wanted it more."
Adrien, who is quickly becoming the glue, led the way.
With the Cardinals sagging to stop Thabeet, Adrien bulled his
way wherever he wanted. He hit 7-of-12 field goals and seemed to
hit a shot whenever the Huskies needed one.
"Adrien has really turned into a leader and provides a lot of
energy for us," Thabeet said. "When we needed a loose ball, he
goes and gets it."
Not that there were many big shots or loose balls to get in the
second half as the Huskies turned the Big East Game of the Year -
for this week anyway - turned into a rout late in the first half.
Williams picked up two early fouls, including a touch foul while
Price attempted a 3-pointer and went to the bench less than four
Pitino did his best to protect his best all-around player, but
the Cardinals appeared lost when their senior co-captain wasn't on
the floor. The Huskies put together a 15-2 run to end the half
while Williams watched from the bench.
Adrien had little trouble with Williams' replacement, freshman
Kyle Kuric, scoring six points during the burst, including a pretty
hook shot over Kuric's arms as UConn took a 38-26 lead into the
break and was well on its way to cementing its status as the
nation's top team.
UConn stretched the lead to 15 early in the second half and the
Cardinals had no answer. Louisville never got within 10 points over
the final 20 minutes and Thabeet raised his arms in triumph as the
Yet as emphatic as they were in victory, the Huskies know it
won't matter if they can't keep it going.
"Being No. 1 is like winning in Maui," Calhoun said. "It's
nice but I want to be there in April."