SEATTLE (AP) — For the first few minutes Sunday, No. 10 Connecticut looked like it was in danger of losing to a Pac-12 team for the second straight game.
Washington jumped to a 14-point lead midway through the first half before UConn responded, with Shabazz Napier scoring 15 of his 20 points in the second half to lead Connecticut to an 82-70 victory.
“I think guys kind of woke up after they went on a little run,” Napier said. “It gave us a little sense of urgency when they started getting up by 10 and 13.”
Connecticut (10-1) was coming off its first loss of the season, 53-51 to Stanford at home Wednesday. In that game UConn was 5 of 31 from the field and 0 for 12 on 3-pointers in the second half. The early going against UW wasn’t much better as Connecticut missed its first six shots from behind the arc as Washington (6-5) built the double-digit lead.
C.J. Wilcox hit two straight 3-pointers to give UW a 31-17 lead with 7 minutes to go in the first half, but those shots seemed to wake up the visiting Huskies.
UConn answered with a 15-2 run, including a stretch of 10 straight points. Connecticut took the lead for the first time since the opening minutes when DeAndre Daniel’s layup made it 39-37 with 1:46 left in the first half, and UConn led 43-39 at halftime.
“We had the opportunity to put our foot on them, but we let them go,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox led Washington (6-5) with 19 points on 6-of-15 shooting and had four assists. Darin Johnson had 13 points for Washington and Mike Anderson, who is from Hartford, Conn., added 10 points.
Ryan Boatright had 16 points and five rebounds and Lasan Kromah scored 14 points for Connecticut, which was playing its first true road game of the season.
“We knew they were going to come out and play their best game, give us their best shot, and if we could hold that first punch we’d be all right,” Boatright said. “Once they went up 14 we called a timeout and we were like, ‘Man, if we don’t step it up right now we’re fixing to lose this game.’ And everybody dug down deep and we crawled back in it.”
Washington built its lead as Connecticut was missing 3-pointers. Then UConn started aggressively going inside and changed the mood of the game.
“We started attacking the basket. We stopped settling for 3s,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “When we played against Stanford, we settled for those shots. Today we put pressure on them offensively.”
For Napier, the long trip to the West Coast also contributed to the change in styles.
“That 7-hour flight, my back started to stiffen up. Honestly, I didn’t want to shoot too much because I knew I didn’t have enough legs,” Napier said. “The biggest thing was we just wanted to continue to get to the basket, and we did that.”
UConn’s pressure came on the defensive end. Kromah had four steals, two during Connecticut’s run late in the first half to help turn the tide.
Connecticut scored the first six points of the second half to push the lead to 10 points, and then used a nine-point run to pull away to 62-48 with 11 minutes to play. Washington wasn’t able to make a run to get back into the game.
“That’s what our team is built on, the composure we showed, but then the toughness,” Ollie said. “That’s what I want our UConn team to be about, toughness.”
Connecticut’s long-range shooting improved after the dismal start, as UConn finished 4 of 12 behind the arc and 28 of 51 (54.9 percent) overall from the field.
UConn changed its starters after going with the same lineup for the first 10 games of the season. Amida Brimah started at center, replacing Phillip Nolan. Brimah dunked on the game’s first possession and had four points and three rebounds. Nolan responded to the change, coming off the bench to tie his season highs with eight points with five rebounds.
“Coach challenged everybody,” Nolan said. “He challenged me and I felt I had to show him something tonight.”
One of the largest cheers from the home crowd came 6½ minutes into the game, when junior forward Desmond Simmons checked in. It was Simmons’ first appearance since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Nov. 7. Simmons hit the first 3-pointer of the game to put UW up 17-10 but got into foul trouble and finished with five points.
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