Men's Basketball Falls to Top-Ranked UConn
STORRS, Conn. (AP) - There wasn't much that kept Jim Calhoun from smiling Saturday. His top-ranked Connecticut Huskies had just beaten No. 9 Michigan State 82-68 in an impressive outing in front of a wild home crowd and a national television audience.
His smile got a little wider though when he was asked about the shooting struggles of Richard Hamilton, the Huskies' preseason All-America guard.
"Part of why I'm feeling so good is that we passed a tough test and we beat a very good team by 14 points without our best player," Calhoun said, referring to Hamilton's 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range. "When the lead went from four to 16, he was sitting beside me."
But the Huskies (6-0) had so many other weapons on the floor: sophomore point guard Khalid El-Amin had 20 points, 12 on 3s, and six assists; junior center Jake Voskuhl had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting; junior power forward Kevin Freeman had 16 points and six rebounds; sophomore reserve Albert Mouring had 11 points in 16 minutes; and the most impressive may have been the defense of senior guard Ricky Moore.
Moore held Michigan State's preseason All-America guard Mateen Cleaves to six points on 2-for-15 shooting, including 1-for-7 from beyond the arc.
"I see these lists of the best defensive players in the country and I don't see Ricky's name," Calhoun said. "This now makes about 20 unbelievable jobs he has done against some of the best players in the country. Cleaves didn't shoot well today because Ricky Moore was in the game."
Moore, who finished with seven points, including five free throws in the final 2:38, knew his defense and the help he was getting from his teammates was getting to Cleaves.
"I get enthused when I'm told I'm going to be covering one of the best point guards in the United States," Moore said. "I think he was frustrated in the beginning of the second half because everywhere he went I was there, and I had help from my teammates, they were hedging on screens and he didn't get any open looks. And when you don't get any open looks in a game, it's tough to make shots."
Cleaves, who was 3-for-18 in the Spartans' loss to No. 4 Duke last week in the Great Eight, knows what to expect each time Michigan State (4-3) takes the floor.
"I'm drawing a lot of attention, but I know going in it will be like that," he said.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wasn't going to blame Cleaves.
"I thought Ricky Moore did a good job on Mateen and I felt he did get a little frustrated in the second half, but I don't know if that was from Ricky Moore or from the fact that not one of our guys stepped up today," he said.
Morris Peterson led Michigan State with 14 points, while Andre Hutson and Jason Klein had 12 each.
"The first half may have been the best we played all year," Izzo said. "Mateen was under control and I thought we did a good jog of attacking their pressure and fast-breaking. In the second half, they turned up the defense and we didn't respond the way we should."
Michigan State had the start it needed to take the wild sellout crowd of 10,027 at Gampel Pavilion out of the game, opening with an 11-2 run. But the Huskies' defense stiffened and Connecticut had the lead for good at 34-32 with 1:50 left in the half.
The Huskies led 45-41 when they went on an 8-2 run that made it 53-43 with 14:08 to play on a baseline jumper by Mouring.
Cleaves' only field goal of the second half got the Spartans within 62-52 with 7:39 to play, but they didn't get any closer as the Huskies got big inside baskets by Voskuhl, a beautiful hoop on a spin move by El-Amin and near perfect free throw shooting over the final 3 1/2 minutes.
"We knew we were going to get five guys playing defense, but our halfcourt execution in the second half was almost perfect," Calhoun said. "We went to our first option, second option, even third. That is about as good as five people can execute, and that showed maturity on our part."
The win almost meant Connecticut's second stint at No. 1 is going to be at least one week longer than its first.
Connecticut moved to No. 1 for the first time in school history on Feb. 13, 1995, then lost its second game and didn't get back to the top until Monday. The Huskies beat No. 15 Washington in the Great Eight and then did in Michigan State to stay No. 1 for at least one more week.
"I really don't think a lot of guys even knew about that. I didn't know about the one week thing until I heard it from a reporter," Moore said. "We knew they were going to be a good team, and it was going to be like a Final Four or Elite Eight game. This was our chance to really show everybody what we're made of."
By JIM O'CONNELL
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