As second acts go, this one was forgettable for the University at Buffalo.
UB was a 17-point underdog against Connecticut in the second round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, then proceeded to send the Huskies to the free-throw line 37 times over 40 minutes. The Bulls left the floor with an 82-57 loss Thursday night before 9,740 in Gampel Pavilion.
"They sustained great effort and intensity," said UB coach Reggie Witherspoon. "It never stops with them."
UConn (2-0) advanced to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15 to play Gardner-Webb (2-0), which pulled off the biggest upset of the young season with an 84-68 victory over Kentucky on Wednesday in Rupp Arena.
The Huskies don't lose often against nonleague opponents in Gampel Pavilion. They have a record of 112-17 in Gampel, 53-4 against nonconference foes, and have won 49 of their last 55 overall in the facility that was opened in 1990. The Huskies haven't lost at Gampel since a 2001 NIT game against Detroit.
Thursday was yet another dominant performance at home for the Huskies, who blocked 15 shots.
The Huskies led, 43-30, at the half but took it to another level midway through the second half. After Jerome Dyson missed a layup, Stanley Robinson soared in to dunk in the miss to give the Huskies a 62-41 lead. A few minutes later, Jeff Adrien's dunk pushed the advantage to 68-43 and the rout was on. UConn led by as many as 26 points.
"Buffalo is a very physical basketball team, but I think we negated that with our speed," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun. "When we run, we have run well."
One night after scoring a career-best 25 points, swingman Greg Gamble again led UB (1-1). The Niagara Falls native finished with 13 points and was the only player in double figures for the Bulls, who shot 23 of 69 from the floor, just 1 of 7 on treys.
"I believe this team is on the level of UConn and we proved it for about the first 10 minutes of the game," Gamble said. "It's a big gym, big crowd and we have some new players so it's a learning experience for some people. I don't think they are a level above us, we're on the same level."
That wasn't apparent Thursday night. UConn was led by A.J. Price, who scored a career-high 24 points, while Adrien added 11. Robinson finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks for UConn. The Huskies won this game at the free-throw line by hitting 25 of 37. They also pounded UB on the boards, 54-36.
"We started adjusting our shots to the shot blockers and we were getting our shots blocked," Gamble said. "When we actually did get fouled, the refs didn't call it."
UConn had a size advantage and shot 14 of 23 free throws in the first half, while the Bulls went to the line only twice, making one. The Huskies only began to pull away once they started making their three-pointers.
UB sophomore point guard Rodney Pierce drained a three and added a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line to give the Bulls a 24-19 first-half lead. But UConn took control of the game with a 21-6 run to end the half, ignited by Price, the Amityville native.
The junior guard hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 24 to start the run, then Doug Wiggins pushed the advantage to eight with a three-pointer. The Huskies led, 41-26, after a pair of free throws by Adrien, and even after Andy Robinson's dunk just before the halftime buzzer, the Bulls still trailed by 13. Price hit four of six shots and two of three from three-point range to lead the Huskies with 11 points in the half, while Pierce, the former Hutch-Tech guard, led UB with seven.
UB's home opener is Tuesday against South Florida.
UConn 82, UB 57