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NEW YORK (AP) — Jeremy Lamb scored 25 points and Ryan Boatright added 19 to lead Connecticut to an 81-67 victory over DePaul on Tuesday in the opening round of the Big East tournament.
The ninth-seeded Huskies (19-12) will play eighth-seeded West Virginia in the second round on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Connecticut, the defending Big East tournament and national champion, had coach Jim Calhoun back on the bench for the second game. He had back surgery just eight days ago after missing eight games, of which the Huskies won only three.
Calhoun looked like his old self during the game, getting up and down from his seat often and making his way on the court at a whistle to make sure Boatright understood what he wanted him to do in running the offense.
Cleveland Melvin and Moses Morgan both had 19 points for the 16th-seeded Blue Demons (12-19), who closed the season losing 10 of their last 11.
This same matchup started the Huskies’ five-games-in-five-days run to the conference title that they followed with a six-game run to the national championship.
This team doesn’t have Kemba Walker to lead it, but the Huskies started shooting like a team destined to do big things in the postseason. They made their first seven 3-point attempts and were 7 of 9 from beyond the arc in taking a 46-33 lead.
A 15-4 run to start the second half, capped by a 3 by Roscoe Smith, gave Connecticut a 61-37 lead with 14:47 to play.
Unlike last year when the Huskies went on to a 97-71 win, the Blue Demons found a way to make a game of it. An 11-0 run got DePaul within 63-51 with 11:09 to play and the Blue Demons were able to get within 70-61 on a 3 by Morgan with 7:15 to play.
Lamb had four points in a 6-0 run that got the Huskies straightened out and the Blue Demons were never closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
As good as Connecticut was from behind the 3-point line (8 of 13) it was terrible from the free throw line, making 11 of 24, including an 0-for-6 effort by freshman center Andre Drummond.
The Huskies, who came in fourth in the country with 6.7 blocks per game, blocked 10 shots against DePaul with Drummond and Oriakhi getting four each. DePaul shot just 32.4 percent from the field (23 of 71), the 12th time in the last 21 games an opponent didn’t shoot 40 percent against the Huskies.
Lamb finished 10 of 18 from the field, including 3 of 6 on 3s, and Boatright was 5 of 9 overall and made his two 3-point attempts. Boatright matched his career high with seven assists.
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