STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Ryan Boatright scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds as No. 17 UConn opened up defense of its national championship with a 66-53 win over Bryant University on Friday night.
Amida Brimah added 12 points and five blocked shots for the Huskies, who won their 15th consecutive season opener.
Dyami Starks had 18 points for Bryant, which led by six points at halftime and nine points after Angus Riley hit a 3-pointer to open up the second half.
But the Huskies began chipping away.
A 3-pointer, steal and dunk by Boatright brought the Huskies within a point at 42-41. His layup gave them their first lead of the second half at 45-43.
They slowly stretched that out and a 3-pointer by Sam Cassell Jr. made it 57-47 with 4:11 left. That was part of a 14-6 run that UConn used to close the game.
The Huskies shot 64 percent in the second half after making just 34 percent of their shots in the first half. Their defense also held Bryant to three baskets over the final 6 minutes.
Kentan Facey had 11 rebounds to go with his five points.
The Huskies got in foul trouble early, picking up their seventh less than 10 minutes into the game. But they still had a double-digit lead after a 3-pointer by Daniel Hamilton made it 19-8 with just over 11 minutes left in the first half.
Bryant went on an 18-0 run from there. A 3-pointer from Dyami Starks gave the Bulldogs a 26-19 lead before Kevin Ollie called a timeout. UConn missed nine shots during that run and Bryant had four 3-pointers.
A layup by Shane McLaughlin just before the halftime buzzer sent Bryant into the locker room up 34-28.
UConn outrebounded Bryant 39-31 after trailing 22-20 on the boards at halftime.
UConn missed on nine of its 11 3-point attempts before intermission, but hit five of eight after intermission. Bryant was seven of 21 from behind the arc.
The Huskies are coming off the program’s fourth national championship and a 32-8 season. Bryant is in just its sixth season in Division I. The Bulldogs return three starters from a team that won 18 games last year after posting losing records in their first four seasons in the Northeast Conference.
It was the second meeting between the two teams as Division I opponents. UConn won the first game by 30 points in 2008.
UConn: The Huskies played without sophomore guard Rodney Purvis, who was suspended for the game because he played too much summer basketball. The school said the sophomore, who sat out last season after transferring from North Carolina State, played in two different summer leagues, which is banned by the NCAA. In a statement, the university said it worked with the NCAA in determining that Purvis played a single game in a second summer league, which necessitated a one-game penalty. … Junior guard Omar Calhoun, who sprained a ligament in his right knee in a preseason practice, also did not play.
Bryant: The Bulldogs have not won a season opener since moving to Division I in 2008-09. They last won an opening game in 2005, beating Adelphi 70-62.
UConn plays the College of Charleston on Thursday as part of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament.
Bryant hosts New Hampshire on Thursday.
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