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No. 9 UConn beats USF 60-57

Connecticut center Andre Drummond (12) shoots over South

Connecticut center Andre Drummond (12) shoots over South Florida forward Augustus Gilchrist (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game. (Dec. 28, 2011) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. — Jeremy Lamb scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half, helping No. 9 Connecticut hold off South Florida 60-57 on Wednesday night in their Big East opener without suspended coach Jim Calhoun.

Lamb led a game-ending surge with a jumper and three free throws in the final 1:46 to help the Huskies (11-1, 1-0) close out their sixth consecutive victory.

Toarlyn Fitzpatrick had 14 points and 12 rebounds for USF (7-7, 0-1), which hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Calhoun did not make the trip to Tampa, remaining behind as he began serving a three-game suspension by the NCAA for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance within the program.

Assistant coach George Blaney, a former head coach at Holy Cross and Seton Hall, is leading the defending national champions during the ban.

Lamb made 8 of 11 shots from the field and six of eight free throws. Ryan Boatright added nine points for the Huskies, who overcame a slow start and 44 percent shooting by limiting South Florida to four field goals over the final 12 minutes and 38 percent shooting for the game.

Calhoun will also miss UConn’s Dec. 31 home game against St. John’s and a Jan. 3 road game against Seton Hall before returning to the bench against Rutgers on Jan. 7. The Huskies improved to 10-9 all-time without the Hall of Fame coach on the bench for an entire game, 21-8 when Calhoun’s missed at least a portion of a game.

Despite playing UConn tough since moving from Conference USA into the Big East in 2005, USF has lost nine of 10 meetings against the Huskies, with the only victory coming in the school’s on-campus arena in March 2010. With the Sun Dome undergoing renovation, the Bulls are playing their conference home games in the 20,000-seat St. Pete Times Forum in downtown Tampa.

The Huskies trailed even before the opening tip, with USF’s Shaun Noriega’s making one of two free throws the Bulls were awarded after the UConn bench was assessed a technical foul for failing to submit its starting lineup on time.

They fought back from an early 12-4 deficit to tie the score twice before Roscoe Smith made two free throws to give the Huskies their first lead with 8 seconds remaining in the first half.

Fitzpatrick helped USF to its promising start, making three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes. But the 6-foot-8 forward didn’t score again until he made two free throws and another long 3-pointer to get the Bulls within 56-51 with 35.2 seconds to go. Shabazz Napier made a free throw and Lamb converted three of four from the foul line to finish the victory.

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