College Basketball

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(17) Connecticut (11-1) at Houston (8-5)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 31, 9 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Hofheinz Pavilion (8,479) -- Houston, Texas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UConn 7-1, Houston 6-1. Away Record: UConn 1-0, Houston 1-2. Neutral Record: UConn 3-0, Houston 1-2. Conference Record: UConn 0-0, Houston 0-0. Series Record: Connecticut leads, 2-0.

GAME NOTES: The 17th-ranked Connecticut Huskies and Houston Cougars open up the inaugural American Athletic Conference slate against one another on Tuesday evening at Hofheinz Pavilion.

Kevin Ollie's Huskies are off to a strong start. The team opened the season with nine straight wins before suffering its only loss of the season, a 53-51 nail-biter at home to Stanford. UConn has righted the ship since with back-to- back wins over Washington (82-70) and Eastern Washington (82-65) in the last nine days.

James Dickey's Cougars closed out their non-conference slate with a 54-52 win over Rice on Dec. 21. The victory was just the second in the last five games for Houston, which enters league play with a modest 8-5 record.

Connecticut has won both previous meetings with Houston, although this is the first matchup between the two teams since 2000.

The Huskies played their first home game not in Storrs or Hartford last week when they knocked off Eastern Washington in Bridgeport at Webster Bank Arena. All-American candidate Shabazz Napier led the charge against the Eagles, just missing out on a double-double with 15 points and nine assists. Joining Napier in double-figure scoring were Ryan Boatright (14 pts), Niels Giffey (13 pts), Omar Calhoun (12 pts) and Phillip Nolan (11 pts). The Huskies took a seven- point lead into halftime despite shooting just .407 from the floor in the first 20 minutes. The team was able to up that to an even 50 percent in the second half and went a perfect 18-of-18 from the free-throw line in the second stanza to run away with the win.

The Huskies have played well at both ends of the floor this season and as a result, enjoy a +12.5 scoring margin as conference play begins. The team is shooting a solid .477 from the floor, while holding foes under 40 percent shooting (.380). Not many players in the nation can do what Napier does across the board. The veteran playmaker leads UConn in scoring (15.4 ppg), rebounding (6.3 rpg), assists (5.9 apg) and steals (23). Complementary scoring options come in the form of DeAndre Daniels (13.1 ppg) and Boatright (12.1 ppg).

Not many teams have fought through as much adversity as Houston this season. The Cougars have been plagued by a rash of injuries, including losing second leading scorer Danuel House (15.6 ppg), who went down after seven games with a knee injury. To compound the problem, another starter, L.J. Rose (10.1 ppg) has missed some time with a foot injury, although he is listed as questionable for this contest. Without House and Rose in the lineup, the scoring burden has fallen even heavier on the shoulders of TaShawn Thomas. The 6-foot-8 junior has handled it well and is a dominant force in the frontcourt, shooting .648 from the field, while leading the team in both scoring (17.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg).

Houston didn't play particularly well against Rice last time out, but a solid defensive performance saved the day. The Cougars held the Owls to just .305 shooting, while forcing 14 turnovers. The game was won inside, where Houston outscored Rice, 30-14. Thomas was a big reason for that, posting a double- double with game-highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Brandon Morris was the only other Cougar to post double digits in points, netting 10 in the low- scoring affair.

The Cougars have won six of seven games at home this season, but short-handed against a strong UConn squad, isn't necessarily a recipe for success.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 72, Houston 64

12/31 10:33:36 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 1
DUR 2
 
1:05pm Today
NOR
DUR
 
3:30pm Today
MIA
CHA
Final
WAS 3
STL 4
Final
CLE 0
TOR 5
Final
DET 5
ANA 2
Final
BOS 4
BAL 2
Final
KAN 5
MIN 4
Final
CHC 8
CIN 4
Final
OAK 4
HOU 3
Final
PIT 7
MIL 8
Final
NYM 5
ATL 7
Final
TAM 16
NYY 1
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MIA 7
SEA 0
Final
TEX 6
CWS 3
Final
LOS 8
ARI 6
Final
COL 3
PHI 1
Final
SDP 3
SFG 1
1:05pm Today
CLE
TOR
1:08pm Today
DET
ANA
1:10pm Today
NYM
ATL
1:10pm Today
MIA
SEA
1:35pm Today
PIT
MIL
1:35pm Today
WAS
STL
 
1:40pm Today
TAM
NYY
2:10pm Today
KAN
MIN
2:20pm Today
CHC
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3:05pm Today
TEX
CWS
4:05pm Today
OAK
HOU
4:10pm Today
LOS
ARI
4:10pm Today
COL
PHI
4:10pm Today
SDP
SFG
7:05pm Tonight
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BAL
Final
TOR 87
BRK 94
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LAC 105
GSW 109
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IND 93
ATL 101
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OKC 100
MEM 86
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DAL
3:30pm Today
MIA
CHA
7:00pm Tonight
CHI
WAS
9:30pm Tonight
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POR
Final
STL 4
CHI 3
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PIT 3
CLB 4
Final
COL 4
MIN 2
12:00pm Today
NYR
PHI
3:00pm Today
BOS
DET
7:00pm Tonight
MON
TAM
10:00pm Tonight
SJS
LOS
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NOR 1
DUR 2
 
1:05pm Today
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